Jackie (2016)

(On Cable TV, October 2017) There’s been a lot of ink and footage about the JFK assassination since 1963, but Jackie manages to find new things to say by focusing on Jackie Kennedy in the wake of the tragedy, from the blood-soaked aftermath in the car to the state funeral days later. It’s both a way to examine the state of the nation in those uncertain days, and a way to put a focus on Jackie Kennedy as a woman reacting to the events from a perspective no one else could imagine. Parts of it play like a ghastly black comedy (such as time it took for her to shower and clean up the gore that had splattered her dress) and other parts as high-stakes drama, with her guiding the nation in mourning. But while this take on the events is interesting in itself, and while Natalie Portman owns the title role, much of Jackie plays in generally unremarkable fashion, like a made-for-TV drama. (Indeed, it was originally conceived for HBO.)  Some of the historical re-creation is evocative enough, but much of the film’s visual character lies in recreation and not distinctiveness. Still, it’s a painless-enough history lesson and a take on the topic that gives some much-needed agency to Kennedy beyond simply being a grieving widow. I expected something far duller from Jackie, but the flashes of feistiness given to the lead character do end up making the film much better than expected.

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