Seen through the eyes of the iconic First Lady, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Natalie Portman), Jackie is an intimate portrait of one of the most important and tragic moments in American history: the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
President Kennedy's assassination was a generation-marking event not just for Americans but for the millions of people around the world who had seen in JFK an inspirational leader ready to make real and positive changes. For Jackie Kennedy however, it was a personal tragedy and trauma.
Even those of us who were not born on 22 November 1963, who can't ask "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?", feel that we know what happened that day. Many previous films, books and documentaries have been devoted to minutely dissect the assassination and the mysteries that still persist about the killer or killers, and their motivation.
Jackie sets out to tell a totally different story. That of a young widow who has just watched her husband be shot in the head and now has to comfort her young children and a nation while also finding a way for herself to grieve. According to scriptwriter and journalist Noah Oppenheim, what kept Jackie Kennedy going was her innate understanding that the aftermath and funeral would shape her husband's legacy. She became determined that he would not be robbed of that legacy by his untimely death, that his short two years and nine months in office would take on iconic status thanks to the staging of the funeral.
Oppenheim structured his script around the known facts, then he, director Pablo Lorrain and Natalie Portman, in the role of Jacqueline Kennedy, used that as a basis to imagine the moments in that short week after the assassination for which there is no record.
So they imagined Jackie Kennedy in the White House, the home she was soon to leave. With her children, celebrating John Jr's third birthday, which sadly fell on the day of his father's funeral. Discussing with the Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, about his brother's funeral. Wandering the rooms in her blood-stained Chanel suit.
Making of an Icon
The Kennedy presidency was the first of the televised age. It's important to remember that Jackie Kennedy was a journalist and photographer — she was acutely aware of the importance of image in her husband's legacy. It was she who insisted that President Kennedy's funeral should be based on that of Abraham Lincoln, the beloved president who freed the slaves and also died from an assassin's bullet, she who demanded her right to walk beside her husband's casket in the procession.
JFK's funeral was watched by millions around the world. Now we can get a glimpse at the personal tragedy and fortitude behind that public outpouring of grief.
As the Natalie Portman points out, "I think every individual will have their own experience of who Jackie is. But the one thing I truly hope is that you see someone who is not just an icon but a very human, complex woman who found her own way through a situation few of us could imagine.”
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in a Nutshell
Jacqueline Bouvier was born in on July 28, 1929, to a wealthy New York family with French ancestry. She excelled at horse-riding and ballet.
She studied history, literature, art, and French at Vassar and George Washington Universities, spending a year in Paris.
She was a reporter and photographer with a column in The Washington Times-Herald.
In 1953, she married John Fitzgerald Kennedy, then a U.S. Senator. He was elected the 35th U.S. President and in 1962, the Kennedys moved into the White House with their two children: Caroline, 4, and the newly born John Jr.
In August 1963, the Kennedys had a third child, Patrick, who died two days later.
On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Jacqueline Kennedy was beside him in the car. His Vice-President, Lyndon B. Johnson was hurriedly sworn-in as President.
After leaving the White House, Jacqueline Kennedy created the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
In 1968, she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. She was widowed for a second time in 1975. In the latter part of her life, she worked as a book editor in New York until her death in 1994.