We saw Jackie the other night. Have you heard of Jackie? She was married to a man who was president for two years and two months and ten days before he was assassinated and his blood splattered all over her pink suit. I confess that I don't know much about her life or that trauma, or the funeral pageant that follows, but the movie filled in some of the gaps.
I mean, I know what most people my age know. I have seen the picture of little John John saluting at his father's funeral, and have a sense that it was an ornate spectacle, and have speculated around the single shooter theory and have watched the grainy black and white photo of the shooting in Texas.
Essentially, the movie flits among five key moments in her life at that time--an exclusive interview with a reporter from Life magazine after the death, the time right before his death, the time right after his death and the planning of the funeral, and her televised interviews in 1961. The most riveting part of the film was, of course, his assassination, where you see her trying to hold his head together with her hands, and then later, when you watch her attempt to wipe his blood and brains off her face and hair. Until then, I hadn't contemplated the extreme trauma of that moment; how could you ever stop thinking about that and did she ever have therapy? In the movie, she deals with it by drinking and smoking and trying on dresses while listening to Camelot on the record player. At least in the immediate aftermath. You also realize that it must have been traumatic for her to have to adjust so quickly--from this life of glamour in the White House to having to pack up her children's things and vacate to make room for the Johnson's (though I was a little skeptical that she would actually have to be boxing up Caroline's dolls by herself). You watch her struggle to decide between having an safe funeral, and wanting to give him a send-off akin to Lincoln's funeral, with all the pageantry and solemnity and horses. She gets her way, and strangely, we don't see much of the funeral itself. The movie is a series of recreations from her life as we've seen them on film, and then her back story--what she was really thinking and doing. As my friend Adam pointed out, a lot of what we see is walk around. She's walking down a hallway, or descending a flight of stairs, or pacing in her bedroom, or giving a tour of the White House, or solemnly marching with a black-veiled face.
You are meant to watch Natalie's portrayal of the first lady with awe and admiration, but I found myself distracted by it---thinking, Wow, she really has that accent down. And, What a priss this lady was. I don't think we ever saw much of her private self, what she was made of and I never forgot I was viewing a fictionalized portrait of the events or the person. I supposed it was interesting to see this slice of her life, particularly when you contrast it to the new first lady, or Michelle Obama, or Hillary Clinton. So often, they are in the shadows. As Dan pointed out, they've made pretty much every movie they can about JFK, but not many of them have taken to the time to focus on his widow.
One other slight distraction:Greta Gerwig as her right-hand lady in a Betty Crocker wig. I couldn't stop seeing her as the girl from Frances Ha or Mistress America.