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Jackie: A Masterclass in Biopics

Anyone who knows me in real life knows I am somewhat fascinated with the 35th First Lady of the United States, Jacqueline Kennedy. It’s honestly surprising it has taken me this long to write about her. It may even be more surprising it has taken me this long to watch finally sit down and watch the 2016 movie Jackie, directed by Pablo Larraín and starring Natalie Portman, but I will tell you this, it was worth the wait. This is one of the best biopics, and possibly the best movies I’ve ever seen. So, let’s talk about it. What makes this movie so great, and does it do Mrs. Kennedy justice?

The movie follows Jackie Kennedy in the days after her husbands assassination on November 22nd 1963 in Dallas, Texas. The story is being told as Jackie tells the story to a reporter exactly one week after it happened, and the story is occasionally interrupted by Jackie telling the reporter what he can and cannot include and the reporter asking her question. The movie focuses on Jackie reconciling with her own grief while also trying to help heal a broken nation. Natalie Portman plays the part incredibly well, but especially when it comes to the infamous voice of Jackie O. That soft spoken voice we all remember from Mrs. Kennedy is heavily prevalent throughout the movie and is spot on to the iconic accent. Another thing I love about this movie is when recreating famous scenes from real life (like Jackie walking out of the White House) the camera almost rounds off at the sides and the quality becomes grainier, making it feel like a real video of the events. There were times I had to stop and pause the movie to figure out if that was the real funeral procession or a recreation.

Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy leaving the White House with her children
Jackie Kennedy and children leaving the Capital where JFK lied in state, November 25th 1963

One thing I did not expect from the movie however was how bloody it would be. I thought the scene of the assassination would be something like hearing the shot, the camera cutting away, and then seeing Jackie on the back of the car covered in blood. Side note, the reason Jackie was on the back of the car was not because she was trying to escape or because she was helping the secret service agent into the car, she was trying to picking of the pieces of his skull and brain that were flying out. Anyways the movie does not shy away from the gory details. The special effects somehow made it look like you could actually see the inside of JFK’s skull as he laid in Jackie’s lap. Something which I, as someone who doesn’t like blood and guts wasn’t too fond of. Like I knew there would be blood, I just didn’t expect that much.

I will say the most heartbreaking scene of the movie for me wasn’t the assassination, or the funeral procession, or even Jackie reburying her two other children so they would buried next to their father. The saddest scene to me was something I didn’t expect to find so heart breaking.

You see, both in real life and in the movie, JFK’s son, JFK Jr’s 3rd birthday falls on the day of the funeral. This leads to a heart breaking scene where Jackie, dressed in all black mourning attire, carries a birthday cake with three candles into the nursery, trying to sing Happy Birthday while holding back tears. The scene is just so powerful and so is the acting. You can tell this movie was heavily researched and everyone put an incredible amount of time and effort into making it. If you haven’t seen it all ready, I highly recommend Jackie.

Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) delivers her son John F. Kennedy Junior his third birthday cake hours before they must go to the funeral of John F. Kennedy Senior

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