22nd October 2017

Reading Response #6

  • Title: Jackie
  • Text type: Film
  • Author: Pablo Larraín

Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie” is a portfolio of the infamous Jackie Kennedy, wife of John F. Kennedy (JFK) and First Lady of the United States. Through Natalie Portman’s depiction of the notorious woman, viewers see rare glimpses of Jackie’s self-consciousness and formidability seeping through her elusive facade. The film focuses on the time directly after JFK’s 1963 assassination, and how grief-ridden Jackie deals with the catastrophe. It is a film where viewers must “read between the lines” as often what is stated holds little relation to what is intended to be portrayed. Instead, we must focus on the actor’s mannerisms, such as the deep breaths Jackie was inclined to take before addressing a crowd, or her interminable smile that quite literally didn’t reach her eyes. “Jackie” gave viewers the rare opportunity to view a legendary, historical figure as human and this is what its success is down to. People love the feeling of being related to, especially when the person they relate to is someone of such esteem as Jackie’s. Her story is told through an interview, incorporating a montage of flashbacks leading up to her husband’s death, the moment he is shot, and, the aftermath of his assassination. “Jackie” incorporated a combination of raw footage, along with re-enacted footage, to give the film a sense of reality; this is not a fictional story.

Despite “Jackie” allowing viewers a chance to get to know the prior First Lady better, the most significant theme of the film is actually people’s reaction to trauma involving death. In spite of everybody dealing with death differently, Jackie’s depiction throughout the film taught me that she felt helpless as her husband was shot and to make up for this she was going to do everything in her power to make sure JFK was remembered. This is proven when she and Bobby Kennedy accompany JFK’s body home. During the trip, Jackie asks the driver and nurse present if they had heard of the Presidents, Garfield, and McKinley, both who were assassinated. The driver and nurse replied “no” and Jackie follows up her question with another: “What does he know about Lincoln?” The driver responds “He freed the slaves.” Jackie seemed unsurprised at the answers and later in the film demanded to see Lincoln’s funeral plans. This scene is important as it represented Jackie’s longing for her husband to not end up like Garfield and McKinley, but rather to be remembered as a president standing along with Lincoln and Roosevelt, the best of the best. Jackie was aware that she had the capacity to ensure this. This interested me as I have always been interested in political figures of history yet I possessed a limited amount of knowledge on Jackie and the Kennedys. As a result, I had assumed that Jackie an JFK’s marriage was superficial, merely a way to present a united front to the world. This assumption stemmed from the constant referral to JFK’s many famous affairs in the media today, including the likes of Marylin Monroe, however, it has now come to my attention that their marriage was simply a marriage of their time and, regardless of their actions, both Jackie and JFK loved each other very much.

Another important moment during “Jackie,” when Jackie’s staunch mind overpowers her frail exterior, is when Jackie refuses to dress out of her famous pink suit, stained with her husband’s blood, stating: “I want them to see what they have done.” When she finally does change in the early hours of the next morning, it is an iconic scene featuring blood-stained water trailing down her back in the shower. This indicates Jackie purifying herself, cleansing herself. She is ready for the next steps to fulfill her duty as a partner and do justice by her late husband. Jackie devotes herself to this case in the days following his death, only breaking down behind the scenes or in front of her brother-in-law, but remaining poised in public. Jackie had many personas and JFK’s death brought them all out. She was often feminine and soft-spoken in-front of big crowds, and more vulnerable when she was by herself or with a close confidante. Then there was her personality during the interview section with the reporter where she came across as rather icy and snarky, still elegant but less hopeful and more resentful. This depiction of mixed-emotions is an accurate representation of people’s reaction to death and other trauma. Anger, sorrow, determination, and helplessness are only a small amount of feelings ignited when a loved one dies or something valuable is lost. In a sense, I can relate this to when I was nine and moved countries. Obviously, the repercussions were much less severe for me than for the Kennedys but, as a child, this was a tragedy. I was losing my life and all I had known. As a result, like Jackie, I felt a combination of emotions that were interchangeable and a number of different people suffered from my wrath.

Jackie was portrayed as a powerful, strong icon, rare for a woman in the 1960s, and this unique quality she held was one of the many reasons she was so admired. The film’s poster exemplifies Jackie’s somewhat hidden vigor by picturing Jackie in another famous outfit but this time red, paired with red lipstick and a red background, the color of dominance. With this determination, Jackie Kennedy succeeded in her mission to make JFK remembered as, in spite of his short amount of time in power and the rather small impact he had on the country in regards to politics, he is still recalled as one of the most popular American presidents of history.

Jackie became the “people’s person,” her incredible style, elegance, and air of mystery transformed her into an inspiration when really she was just trying to make her husband one. Pablo Larraín’s film “Jackie” credits Jackie with much of JFK’s legacy, and demonstrates how her will to make him famous resulted in her being equally as renowned.

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Personal Reading