Written By Jacob Chimilar (Letterboxd: @sweetlows)
This was a story I was really looking forward to hearing about. JFK gets assassinated, what happens to Jackie afterwards? I went in expecting this to be a sort of greatest hits of her years post JFK but instead what we see is just the week or so after his death and her dealing with the logistics of the whole situation. How can you mourn a person who died in your lap when you have the new president wanting to get in and the thought of a funeral could invite another shooter to kill any one else in the family.
Natalie Portman felt a bit off as she was tasked with having to speak like Jackie, but as it went on I got used to it. She had some great moments. The assassination was shocking and her cleaning herself up after the accident was tough to watch. Seeing the cracks in her brick wall come through talking to a reported and priest were nice but beyond that it all felt too distant. The shining moments come when she is allowed to be alone, you get to see her have the moments she couldn't otherwise have.
Seeing her public face as she tried to act like "the first lady" giving a tour of the white house, obsessed with keeping history and the legacy of her presidency alive. That in and of itself felt a bit selfish but it seemed as though she felt presidents deserved to be remembered and that she wanted to make that more of a tradition than was previously done. Aside from the reporter and priest no one really stood out that much in the film. It all felt very bland. If you have listened to or seen Hamilton, this is essentially the same story as Eliza's but with Eliza you feel and connect much more strongly with her emotions and feelings and how she soldered on, and she wasn't even the main focus of the musical.
The direction was very flat and bland. lots of close ups of faces, in conversation or otherwise. Not so much a fly on the wall but more of a "nosey neighbour". I liked the style choice of shooting on film and the archival footage looked very authentic, I was actually surprised at how much it looked like real footage of the era. The costuming and set design were equally fantastic and felt very real to me. The music however was very overbearing and took me out of the movie a few times because of it. It blasted loud announcing the feelings we were supposed to be feeling over what felt like montage sequences.
Overall I'd say this is one you can most likely skip. It is a decent attempt at the portrayal of a first lady's public,work and private life. It just didn't really succeed as much as I would have liked in it's execution. It's told in a very somber, one note way that droned on for too long. The acting was fine, the cinematography was interesting even if the framing and direction was off and the music just rubbed me the wrong way. A good premise, squandered by just how much they play up how sad she is, padding the runtime with longing emotional looks far too often to be worth it.