Jackie, released in select films this past weekend, has caught the media’s attention for its stylistic spin on a true story surrounding the enigma that has been Jackie Onassis Kennedy, written off by many as merely an interesting figure for a fashion plate or coffee book table. Not to be rash, the film did do an impressive job with costume, showing the style setting, and eternally fashionable First Lady designed by Madeline Fontaine, who has lent her hand to prior films such as Yves Saint Laurent and Amélie.
However, the point of the film, highly acclaimed when viewed from this perspective, is to display the dynamic personality and lasting effect of Kennedy, whose Camelot reference was still able to catch the press’s attention just four short days after her husband’s assassination, a fact that really resonated with director Pablo Larraín.
A sort of multi dimensional aspect of Kennedy was brought to screen by Natalie Portman, an expansion of the mysterious and sometimes criticized woman who made sure her family’s mark was left on the nation. The celebrated American royalty status was not lost on Jackie O, who before taking office was criticized for her high fashion tastes and French speaking independence in a time of housewives and secretaries.
She was determined to make her husband a highly remembered and praised President, on the same level as when President Lincoln was slain, creating an elaborate funeral procession. This brings up one of the most infamous quotes during her first interview after the assassination. When told she looked like she was about to scream and she asked what she would yell, the response was “That my husband is a great man!”
There was, and in some cases still remain, a certain stigma around her. She was an editor at Vogue (for a day) until told to go find marriage by a higher up, and later a receptionist, then an “Inquiring Camera Girl” for the Washington Times-Herald. She had a previous engagement, before her marriage to politician John F. Kennedy. She had a degree in French Literature and was a debutante socialite in New York City. Her most infamous image is clad in a Pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat.
To many it sounds very Gossip Girl, especially with tales of affairs and turmoil thankfully not dictated in the film. Instead they take a very necessary look into the different sides of a powerful woman. The grief, the intimacy, the fronted and real strength, and more. In fact the camera shots have even been compared to more of a psychological thriller than drama, with angles so close to Portman’s face it is partially cut off, forcing a fascination into her emotions, both facially displayed and inferred.
There is an importance behind how the team decided to depict Jackie Kennedy. She is of course visually associated with the mystical camelot she created with pearls and home restorations. But here she is shown as a woman holding together the carefully laid out life she has made for herself in the midst of tragedy, marital differences, childbirth complications, public criticism and more. She is, in essence, a woman.
Jackie is now showing in select theaters.