There are four historical films I really want to see this year: Sully, which actually came out last autumn; Hidden Figures, released on Friday; Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan and due for release this summer; and Jackie, released in December.
I have a long-time interest in and admiration for Jacqueline Kennedy. When I was little–9 or 10 years old–my mom let me pick out a bunch of historical paper doll books for my birthday: “Robert E. Lee & His Family” paper dolls, Queen Victoria paper dolls, paper dolls of the Romanov family…and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis paper dolls.
“Ooh, you would like that one,” Mommy said when I asked her about that last one. “There would be beautiful dresses.”
She was right; the Jackie Kennedy book proved to be my favorite. I spent hours cutting out the dolls and pages and pages of glorious gowns–including a debutante gown and a wedding dress that remain two of my favorite historical outfits of all time.
Fast forward fifteen years or so, and I’m still fascinated by Jackie (and the Kennedy family in general). Now, of course, I know all about the grim reality of Camelot, and my interest in Jackie herself goes far deeper than her fantastic fashion sense. It includes a deep sympathy, and an awareness of the tragedy and loneliness swirling around her long before November 22, 1963.
When I found out Natalie Portman would play Jackie in an upcoming film, and that the film was all about Jackie herself, I was thrilled. The subject material, of course, is less than cheerful–but I think we get so caught up in the historical impact of JFK’s assassination (not to mention the very real possibility of a conspiracy, but I digress…) that we forget how unimaginably horrific the experience must have been for the person sitting next to him. So in that respect, I am thrilled she’s finally getting the honor and recognition she deserves.
The movie is all about JFK’s assassination and its immediate aftermath (and it received an understandable “R” rating because of that), so I don’t expect it to be a happy movie at all. But I do expect it to be real, raw, and emotional.
And that’s ironic, because Jackie Kennedy, with her grace, poise, and romantic (in the old-fashioned, “idealized reality” sense of the word) tragedy–she embodies the magical and arguably not-real image of Camelot. This film, however, apparently shows Jackie processing her grief, taking care of her children (who, by the way, both had birthdays within days of their father’s death), and getting ready for an abrupt move out of the White House–nitty-gritty, painful details that get swept under the rug in the history books.
And yet…in the words of a reporter back in November 1963, “Jacqueline Kennedy has given the American people one thing they have always lacked: majesty.” And that really was true, regardless of what was going on behind the scenes.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the talented Natalie Portman portrays this iconic First Lady. The overwhelming consensus is that it’s an Oscar-worthy performance. We shall see, we shall see…
But whether or not Natalie gets that Oscar, I still think it’ll be amazing.