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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Salvaging Camelot
by Betty Jo Tucker

One particular scene in Jackie disturbed me greatly. In fact, I wish I hadn’t seen it. Jackie Kennedy, who’s sitting in the back seat of the car driving President Kennedy during a parade in Dallas, holds her husband’s head in her lap while trying to put the flesh pieces shot off back on his skull. This happened a long time ago – in 1963 – but it’s still too soon for me to relive that horrible tragedy. However, I should have expected something like this in Jackie because it’s all about the First Lady’s grief and behavior during and after JFK’s assassination.

Director Pablo Larrain, working from a script by Noah Oppenheim, uses many nonlinear flashbacks to tell this sad story, and sometimes his approach made me feel like I was lost in a crazy time machine. Also, Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie ends up being too mechanical and mannered. But the costumes, hair styles and make-up really work! They make her look much like the real Jackie Kennedy.

It must be hard to play Jackie.

Many have tried without the key

to her soft voice and slight accent.

Now here comes Portman all hell bent

to look and sound like Jackie did

and win another Oscar bid.

Jackie emphasizes the importance of image to the iconic First Lady. In the midst of her grief, she wanted to make sure JFK’s “Camelot” legacy lived on. So she fought for a prestigious resting place and a grand funeral, much like Abraham Lincoln’s. And only three weeks after the funeral, she schedules an interview with a journalist (Billy Crudup), who agrees to her terms about what he could publish. It’s this interview that opens the film and serves as the format for flashbacks, including Jackie’s famous TV tour of the White House as well as happy times with JFK (Casper Phillipson), the assassination, her soul-searching afterwards, her disagreements with Robert Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard), her supportive conversations with her top aide (Greta Gerwig) and her struggles regarding the funeral.

JACKIE shows the First Lady’s fight

to keep Camelot in the light

after her husband is shot dead

and the whole country feels great dread.

She keeps her dignity and grace

despite the blood and frantic pace.

Flashbacks try to help viewers see

how grand was Jackie’s bravery.

Though confusing more than a bit,

this movie may become a hit.

What would Jackie Kennedy think of Larrain’s movie? She would be very angry about scenes showing her smoking, of course.    

Don’t let it be forgot, once there was a spot, for one brief shiny moment that was known as Camelot. --- from the Broadway musical, a JFK favorite

DISCLAIMER: My husband and I felt the assassination of President Kennedy very deeply. We watched the events depicted in Jackie on our TV set and mourned right along with the real First Lady. That's why it's so hard to be objective about a movie on this topic. Our powerful emotional reactions cannot be duplicated by watching a film.      

(Released by Fox Searchlight and rated “R” for brief strong violence and some language.)     

For more information about Jackie, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.

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