Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt, Richard E. Grant, Caspar Phillipson
Director: Pablo Larrain
For those who’d like to know, there’s a film called Portland, It’s about the awful killing of US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Like “Jackie”, the film under review. Interspersed with archival footage, this intensely religious film focuses on JFK’s wife, Jacqueline Bouvier, aka Jackie (Natalie Portman) as she discusses her husband (Caspar Phillipson) with journalist and biographer Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup) for Life magazine. She brought French elegance to the White House, to the Irish Catholic family she had married into, sashaying stylishly in pillbox hats, pearls and silk.
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Jackie too is Catholic. But her faith is private, something she prefers to discuss “with a priest.” (John Hurt) The White House was Camelot. There was no Lancelot to turn the Queen’s attention from the King who it is said, strayed. After his dastardly assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy was left with two small children John Junior and Caroline to whom she explained JFK’s death this way: “Daddy had to see your baby brother, Patrick (who died shortly after birth) in heaven.” She would eventually remarry a Greek magnate, Onassis and come to be known, in the tabloids at least, as Jackie O. And I don’t know about America but in India our India, we remember Jackie, poised and elegant, laughing with Nehru and of course that horrible time in November 63.
The ex Marine Lee Harvey Oswald, who killed JFK, is assassinated himself. In the song from the musical, Camelot (which the Kennedys loved to listen to) the lyrics hark to an idyllic place, where “the climate must be perfect all the year.” Perfection meant everything to Jackie, even in grief, even as she contemplated suicide. She insisted on everyone walking in the funeral procession to the Cathedral for the last rites. She wept on board Air Force One. At the funeral, she is calm. Composed.
Helmer Pablo Larrain and screenwriter Noah Openheim pay homage to her steely resolve. JFK has been pilloried as a womaniser (are all those stories of his infidelities really really true?) But Jackie believes her Jack is a “great man.” And so he was. He will not be forgotten. As one of the songs goes, “Don’t let it be forgot / that once there was a spot /for one brief shining moment/ that was known as Camelot.”Come up and hear me sing it sometime, gentle reader.