There was a time in the early 1960s when the whole world loved Jacqueline Kennedy, America’s first lady. Along with Marilyn Monroe, Jackie -- as she was endearingly called -- was the nation’s icon. It is this Jackie that the Chilean helmer, Pablo Larraine, has captured in his latest outing, Jackie -- which was shown on Wednesday at the ongoing Venice Film Festival.
Admittedly, Larraine’s work is not really a biopic -- as one had expected -- but a presentation of historical facts that surrounded Mrs Kennedy during those dark days. Elegantly mounted, Jackie is an intelligent movie with Natalie Portman essaying the troubled lady living through grief after President Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas as he drove in an open car -- something the American Secret Service was vehemently opposed to. But he was known to throw caution to the winds.
There are several remarkable scenes in the film: One of them is Jackie’s much publicised 1961 television tour of the White House, which she had decorated in order to make “history more accessible”. The moments just before and after the Dallas tragedy are moving. So is the one which shows her as the grieving widow with the entire nation watching her every move -- a time when she began to feel like an outsider in a place that she had helped build.
Watch the trailer of Neruda by Pablo Larraine here:
Jacqueline was just 34 when Kennedy was elected president. She was the epitome of style and grace, and it was not surprising that she became one of the most famous women in the world.
And then tragedy struck on November 22, 1962, at Dallas -- her pink suit splattered with her husband’s blood. Her world collapsed and a traumatised Jackie was left with no option but to console her two little children and move out of the White House, a home she had virtually created.
The Oscar winning Portman told a media conference after the screening that “playing Jackie felt somewhat dangerous, because everyone knows what she looked like, sounded like and has kind of an idea of her... the role was terrifying, because I never really thought of myself as a great imitator… I was just trying to get to something that people could get past and believe I was Jackie, and then you always have yourself in there too, inevitably.”
Larraine -- whose first English movie is Jackie -- said at the conference: “You of course know I’m not American. I’m not necessarily attached to its history as I am to my country.” Larraine, whose Neruda was a hit with critics in Cannes in May, added that when he read the Warren Commission report on the Kennedy killing, he noticed that Jackie was sitting beside him in the car. “I thought: Why don’t we take her point of view?”
And Jackie does that, telling her story during the first four days after the assassination of a man whom America loved like nobody else.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Venice Film Festival.)