Movie Review : Jackie (2016)
The assassination of John F. Kennedy is perhaps the single most defining American moment of the twentieth century and almost everybody experienced it the exact same way: though a short televised clip and the minds of conspiracy theory enthusiasts. It has been formatted by history and it becomes more difficult with every year to reinterpret. Fortunately, a movie was recently made with a new perspective on the subject. Jackie not only reimagines the iconic events, but explores the role media played in how we remember them. It's kind of a mindfuck, really.
Jackie tells the story of what happened to Jackie Kennedy, from her the moment of her husband's assassination to his burial. The hitch is that the movie picks up exactly a week after the fateful events and it's being narrated by Jackie herself, to a lone journalist. Clearly still shaken from having her husband killed right next to her in a freakin' moving car (come to think of it, it's pretty wild that it worked), she battles the journalist, the White House's succession process and history itself for her husband to be given a proper sendoff and to be remembered properly.
This is a strange, oddly minimalist movie. It's constructed like a series of jumbled flashback of a person suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. John F. Kennedy is almost not featured. Jackie explores the human aftershock of living such traumatic events in a high-profile position. Natalie Portman's Jackie Kennedy is trying to make sense of her husband's murder by putting words on her memories and feelings. There is this heartbreaking scene where she reminisces trying to hold John's head together after her crumbled on her, only to immediately forbid the journalist to print it afterwards. History and personal legacy are at stakes in whatever she tries to say.
At one point, Jackie Kennedy says that the characters you read on a newspaper page are more real to people than the real people who experienced events. That's what Jackie is really about. It's a movie about the twentieth century that is philosophically very twenty-first century-ish. There's a new form of dissatisfaction with history and official versions that was born with the internet and Jackie addresses perhaps the most official of official events in recent history from a purely emotional point of view. Because connecting emotionally with what happened has become as important as understanding what happened in this day and age.
That said, I won't want to implied Jackie is a movie depicting an emotional truth. It's based on an interview she gave to Theodore H. White and I don't want to question Jackie Kennedy's recollection. She was there and I wasn't, you know? I wasn't even born yet. What I'm trying to say is that the world is changing fast and that there's a certain dissatisfaction with history and official events that settled with the advent of the internet. I believe movies like Jackie are a reaction to that and an attempt to understand history in a new and different way. And I'm all for reopening history and not being satisfied with official events.