by Hadley Hustead
Last year Jackie, a movie written by Noah Oppenheim and directed by Pablo Larraín, gave Americans a view of Jackie Kennedy’s grief and resilience in the aftermath of her husband’s assassination. Natalie Portman’s raw portrayal of Mrs. Kennedy asks the viewers to contemplate how she managed to survive the days following JFK’s death with unspeakable grace and courage. The film’s spine-chilling score and jolting scene shifts leave viewers anxious but enchanted.
The film alternates between the taping of the infamous “Tour of the White House” TV special in 1961, an interview one week after the assassination, and the grief-stricken days following John F. Kennedy’s death. The rotation between settings keeps Jackie’s trauma at the center of the film and reveal the multifaceted personality of America’s Widow. Portman’s remarkable portrayal of Jackie’s poise and often-hidden humanity is one of the film’s greatest strengths.
Despite Jackie’s shattered heart and excruciating anguish, she is determined to protect the legacy of her husband and give both JFK and the American people the funeral she believed they both needed and deserved. Portman’s portrayal of Jackie offers viewers a window into how America’s beloved first lady mourned alongside America with dignity and strength. Additionally, viewers gain insight into Jackie’s orchestration of the Camelot fairy tale— one of America’s greatest political myths. The First Couple’s fondness for the famous Broadway musical was the vehicle by which Jackie mobilized her husband’s enduring legacy within days after the assassination.
Jackie does not strive to illustrate what JFK’s assassination means for American history, and certainly does not suggest how one should make sense of it all. Rather, the film zeros in on the woman at the epicenter of America’s tragedy, striving to unveil her humanity and resilience as she authored the legacy of JFK.
Jackie’s loyalty, grace, and humility were the values that crafted her outstanding strength. Jackie tastefully emphasizes the importance of the former First Lady’s strong foundation and her dedication to fostering strength in her time of loss. The virtues of loyalty, service, and grace have slowly lost their potency as our culture increasingly promotes self-interest, independence, and outspokenness as the means of achievement and success. Female empowerment has found a new fuel; however, it is far less sustainable than the Christ-centered virtues that yielded Jackie’s unbreakable strength.
Although the time frame of the movie is concentrated and brief, it is packed with meaning. I was most struck by Portman’s depiction of Jackie’s womanhood. Jackie Kennedy was a beacon of feminism’s most timeless attributes. Her strength was a product of her commitment to choosing love, grace, and kindness despite temptations of self-interest and independence. Jackie’s outstanding efforts to protect her family and be the light Americaneeded required strength beyond measure. Clearly, her help came from the Lord—the ultimate fuel.
Overall, Jackie is an outstanding film saturated with history and humanity. It pierced my heart and reminded me that God can be found in all things, even the White House.