Jackie :: Outrageously Good Performance, Relatively Uninvolving Film…

Cineville - Jackie

I loved the film's opening scene, which sees Jackie Kennedy padding around the White House glumly in slow motion with these wonderful curtains of sound wafting around her, all stretched and dissonant, reminiscent of the opening of There Will Be Blood. And Nathalie Portman is immediately extremely impressive, strangely invisible in the lead role.

Although she's too good-looking to fool anyone in a line-up, it's an eerie impression, and she has that sleepy, almost-spooky, lugubrious ASMR monotone down pat. Jackie Kennedy always sounded rather like Marilyn Monroe might have, in her final moments of consciousness. 

The film flashes back to key episodes in Jackie's life as the President's wife, returning each time to an interview she is conducting a week after her husband's assassination. As the interviewer continues to probe his subject, who just happened to be the most famous woman on the planet at the time, the film becomes increasingly intrusive. Predictably, we revisit the moment of JFK's death again and again, seeing a little bit more of his brain each time. We also see more and more of Jackie dealing with his death.

Cineville - Jackie


We see her not comprehending what has happened. We see her in shock. We see her trying "to hold his head together". We see her scrubbing her husband from under her nails and washing his blood out of her hair in the shower.

Most of what Nathalie Portman has to do is express grief — copious amounts of grief, and occasional rage. From within her pain, however, we also see Jackie's strength. She refuses to be manipulated by those around her, wilfully taking the reins of her husband's funeral and indeed, his legacy. We also see the incredibly dignity she managed to maintain under unimaginably trying circumstances, and your heart goes out to her from beginning to end.

However, despite the film's desire to humanise Jackie, partly through the scenes with her best friend Nancy (Greta Gerwig), partly through showing her covered in blood, snot and brain, I never managed to weep along with her, which betrays a lack of connection on my part.

Cineville - Jackie


At first, I wanted to blame the film for this lack of connection. Then I began to think that maybe I was meant to feel that way — that maybe it was because Jackie was always playing a part, and never really allowed to be herself, maybe the emotional distance was because of that. And then I changed my mind and decided to blame the film again.

Ultimately, I didn't really feel Jackie's pain, and I have to mark the film down for that. I'm certainly not going to blame myself.

Oh, I also have to mark the film down for Richard E Grant's performance, in which, as usual, he seems not to be acting very well.

Also: I got a little bored. Which feels churlish. But there it is.

And Jackie would have hated it.


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Cineville - Jackie


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The Viewing

I'm sitting in the first-floor bar-cum-waiting area of the Rialto on Ceintuurbaan. I'm 15 minutes early for Jackie, 65% full of cold and in a pretty excellent mood. I haven't been to the cinema much recently, as I know I've mentioned, because I've been working hard on this copywriting site, and I'm pleased to say it seems to be paying off. No, not paying off exactly — fly down, my friend — but looking good. Boding well. Early signs are good. My future here feels more assured.


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I'm in my seat now. It's a lovely room and a nice crowd, some of whom have fascinated me, so occasionally I turn around and peruse them. I try half-heartedly to make it look like I'm checking the door, waiting for someone to turn up, but really I'm just inspecting people.

In particular, I'm inspecting a man and a woman two rows behind me.

I had noticed the woman sitting on her own as I came in, then a minute later I watched as a young man wandered around the front of the cinema and up the left-hand side of the auditorium, then along the same row as this woman. Then I thought I heard him say, in Dutch, something like, Is anyone sitting there? and then it sounded like she'd moved her bag and he'd SAT DOWN NEXT TO A PERFECT STRANGER.

But I hadn't been inspecting them then, just eavesdropping and craning ever so slightly, and so I couldn't be sure.

It intrigued me though, because I would never in a million years sit right next to a single woman in a cinema if there were lots of other seats — or rather, if there were any other seats — available.

So I turned and inspected them and sure enough, they were definitely not together, and he definitely had sat down next to her.

How very Dutch, I thought.

He had wanted to sit as near to the centre of the screen as possible, and he wasn't going to be discouraged by some really quite ludicrous and certainly misplaced idea of social propriety. An Englishman — certainly this one — would never do that. Even if I had very good reasons for wanting to sit in that very seat, if it were next to a stranger — especially if she were a young woman on her own — I'd be far too self-sacrificing and more to the point, far too embarrassed at the idea of my proximity being misconstrued, to go anywhere near her. I'd most probably take a different row if I could. And if we were to inadvertently make eye contact, I'd probably have to leave the cinema and come back to a later showing.

I need to be more Dutch.

About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you'll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven't already.

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