On November 22, 1963, a young woman, Jackie (Portman) finds herself cradling the head of her dying husband Jack (Phillipson). Of course, as we all know, this is no ordinary man and he just been shot by a sniper during a motorcade through the streets of Dallas, Texas.
The following hours and days have been well documented for historical purposes but what of the other story? The story of the young, grieving widow who, under the glare of the international media, must somehow move herself, her young family and her country through this tragic event.
The movie opens a year or so after her husband’s assassination when a journalist (Crudup) arrives at a Kennedy compound to interview the former First Lady. Jackie’s story is told from her perspective a year after the event and also in flashbacks. As the journalist begins to ask questions, she immediately takes control of the situation. This is a woman to be reckoned with.
We are shown that moment, just hours following Jack’s death when this young woman who had just lost her husband and was clearly still in shock, had to stand next to the Vice President, on a plane, her pink outfit covered in her husband’s blood as Lyndon B Johnson was sworn in as the new President. There was something so dignified yet so horribly tragic about this scene that I almost cried. Many hours later as she undresses, we glimpse the amount of blood she was covered in and it’s heartbreaking.
That week after the death of the President, when this young woman strived to be all things to all people yet at the heart of it all, she was just a young mother who had to endure her grief being played out for the world to see. She wanted only to protect her children, just babies really, and the legacy of her husband.
Portman gives an unwavering and devastatingly controlled performance. She has done her research well, mastering not only Jackie’s clipped accent but the subtle nuances of the lady as well. (I didn’t know this at the time but an hour or so on Google once I got home showed me just how amazing Portman was)
The timing of this movie could not be more perfect, given the current monstrosity that has been foisted upon us. It is the strong, dignified First Lady’s who will be remembered by history and this lady is certainly one of those, even if her strength was only evident in those final, harrowing days.
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4 ½ stars
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