Wednesday, December 28, 2016

JACKIE -- My review

As readers of this blog know, I was really looking forward to JACKIE. She’s a fascinating public figure, I love anything ‘60s, and I once brushed against her knees. The reviews have been glowing and Natalie Portman (as Jackie Kennedy) is considered the frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar. What more did I need?

Ultimately, a can of Red Bull.

JACKIE is a meticulous film. And that’s a compliment the same way “he has good posture” is. But let me back up.

First off, you can skip the first five minutes. It’s just vanity production logos. There must be eight of them.

Once the film actually starts, Natalie Portman is amazing. You find yourself totally focused on her performance. The voice, the mannerisms – you’re in Meryl Streep country here. And that holds your interest for three or four minutes. But then you start settling into the narrative and in another three or four minutes you realize “this is slow.” Not just “slow” but “slowwwwwwwwwwwwwww.” The most entertaining part of the movie so far has been the vanity cards.

Not since 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY has there been so many lonnnnnng tracking shots of a character walking through large rooms; the camera on her back as furniture goes by. Director Pablo Larrain must’ve studied Kubrick but copied his worst traits. At times it felt like “Let’s do THE SHINING but with the White House.”

Larrain does pay attention to detail. We see almost moment by moment how Mrs. Kennedy copes with that excruciating weekend when JFK was shot in 1963. But never did I feel really engrossed. Every beat was so mannered, so… meticulous.

I realize part of the problem was the movie just did not meet my expectations. I was anticipating a film about her life, and instead it was primarily centered on the events of that horrific weekend. Having lived through it at the time I didn’t relish revisiting the nightmare… in slow motion. Meanwhile, I wonder if young people who were not alive at the time were able to get the full impact of how unbearable that weekend was from this film. Maybe they did. I don’t know how many of them were even curious enough to see it.

And the music didn’t help. The score consisted essentially of two parts: A four or five note dirge played over and over again, or a three or four note creepy-scary stanza that played over and over when the dirge wasn’t blaring.

The overall package was a cold, distant, “art film.” But many critics were effusive. So it could be that it’s a great movie that I just didn't get. I hated CAROL last year for the same reason.

If I had one takeaway from JACKIE it was how different the country was back then. An entire nation mourned a beloved president, regardless of politics, religions, states, or economic status. At the time we mourned for him. Now I mourn for us.

Tomorrow: My review of LA LA LAND.

29 comments :

Barry Traylor said...

I was 22 years old in 1963 so I remember too well how devastated I as on that horrible weekend so I doubt I want to see this film.

Stephen Marks said...

Ken your review posts are always excellent. Insightful, humorous, intelligent writing that is enjoyable to read. Sometimes I try and read movie reviews in The New Yorker or some other highbrow magazine and I can't understand a word of it. It's like the person goes out of their way to let us know he/she went to Harvard or something, I feel like they're giving ME two dumbs down. Ken the "he has good posture" line was great, with only a few words you explained so much.

Did this woman deserve a bio pic? What did she do exactly, besides marry two wealthy men.
"Jackie" Robinson, of course, "Jackie" Gleason, how come that one hasn't come out, I'd love to see that one. JKO already had a movie made about the most important part of her life that we'd all be interested in, maybe you've seen it, it was called "The Zapruder Film".

Nate said...

Natalie Portman winning Best actress with Mel Gibson for director. Now that's a vision.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

A post about Carrie Fisher followed by a post about Natalie Portman. You can't run away from Star Wars.

If it weren't for the La La Land review, the next post would have to include Daisy Ridley somehow.

William C Bonner said...

With the recent deaths of Carrie Fisher and George Michael, I've been going through how different the country is compared to either the late 70s or early 80s. I can't imagine the changes since 1963.

My nephew and niece are 18 and 14, and explaining how homosexuality was treated, and the uncertainty of what AIDS was seem like talking about a different planet.

blinky said...

Seriously how anyone who lived through the actual events would want to relive them in super.....slow.........motion is beyond me. Did they show what Jackie was crawling on the back of the limo to get? Ack!

Dave Creek said...

I don't like this trend of biopics having the name of the character as the title when it isn't an all-encompassing look at the subject's life. Seems like JACKIE should've had a title focusing on the JFK assassination instead. HITCHCOCK did the same thing, focusing on the making of PSYCHO and not his entire life. So did LINCOLN, with its emphasis on passing the 13th Amendment. I'm not saying they did the wrong movies, just that the title should be more specific. MY WEEK WITH MARILYN did it right.

I read enough about movies before I see them to know I'm making an unwarranted assumption when I see such titles. But I wonder if other viewers do.

Parenthetically, Steven Marks, what Jackie did besides marry two wealthy men was hold this entire country together with her courage and grace on that long weekend after the JFK assassination. She even took the lead on planning the funeral, with its references to Lincoln's. This woman of privilege had just gone through an unspeakable horror, but she maintained her dignity and performed an incredible public service in the process.

Pat Howard said...

Keep up the good work man I look forward to your reviews.I read you every day.

VP81955 said...

Natalie Portman preparing to be to Harvard what Jodie Foster is to Yale (multiple Oscars). Harvard grad Damien Chazelle writing and directing "La La Land" (which I liked a lot, but didn't love -- it's not quite this year's equivalent of "The Artist"). Yalie Theo Epstein helping end two of the three longest "curses" in baseball history (Kenny Williams, who had to settle for attending Stanford, ended the third with the 2005 White Sox). Do the damn Ivy Leaguers have to run everything?

Stephen Marks said...

Excellent comment Mr. Creek about the bio pics. However I disagree with your opinion regarding Mrs. Kennedy holding the country together. The media held the country together, not one person. CBS, NBC, ABC, Walter Cronkite, a young Dan Rather, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and radio. Also, love him or hate him, LBJ. That's what people turned to.

Peter said...

It's a day later and I'm feeling depressed over Carrie Fisher's death. The last celebrity death that made me feel like this was Robin Williams.

It's not just the fact of her passing away. It's the enormous injustice. Someone who had overcome addiction and dealt with bipolar disorder had got to a happy place in her life, her career still going strong, and then this happens. And yet a completely evil scumbag like Dick Cheney survives multiple heart attacks and continues to steal oxygen. It's like a sick cosmic joke that a beautiful human being is taken at 60 whilst that warmongering piece of shit is still around making his blood money into old age.

scottmc said...

Your review was kinder and more insightful than mine would have been. (I noticed the endless vanity credits that opened the film too.) I was amazed at how the actors playing Robert Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson,Theodore White and Jack Velente were not given anything to say/act. The scene where Jackie has to tell Caroline and John that their father was dead struck me as exploitive. The film
also gives the impression that Jackie planned all the elements of the funeral.Sargent Shriver, her
brother-in-law, did much of the work. He wasn't in the movie, or even mentioned. The story jumped back and forth from that weekend to the post-funeral interview and her 1962 televised tour of the White House. You make an excellent point about the movie's target audience; those who were alive in 1963 can't help but find fault with the movie and those too young to remember those four days will be too confused to follow it. I have seen movies that disappointed me-'Rules Don't Apply' being a recent example but 'Jackie' made me angry.

Ron Rettig said...

I thought Katie Holmes did a great portrayal as Jackie in the mini-series "The Kennedys". I understand many liberals and Democrats found fault with the series but that does not diminish Ms Holmes work. A 20 year old the time I also lived through 11//1963.

Unknown said...

For Friday questions: how come Frasier & Lilith didn't end up together on Frasier??? By their last episode together I thought it was pretty obvious that they would always love each other and they were soulmates. Hope you respond!! :)

MikeKPa. said...

So I guess a more accurate title would have been JACKIE: THE WEEK OF 11/22-25?

Peter said...

This is getting ridiculous now. Debbie Reynolds has been taken to hospital with a suspected stroke.

Fuck you, 2016.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Here's a film directing question for any day, if not Friday:

I always thought Portman's nearly blank facial expression and flat, almost monotone, delivery was the result of her direction.

Is it fair to blame Lucas for that portrayal?

Jahn Ghalt said...

I presume that Biographical Films (as wikipedia calls them) excludes documentaries - which mostly are overviews.

Without respect to the film title, I wonder if biopics that provide an "overview" aren't usually too dilute to be worthwhile. I can think of a few "recent" ones that are more narrowly focused that provided quality entertainment:

42, Snowden, Sully, Valkyrie, The People vs. OJ Simpson, Capote, Moneyball, (the film with Streep as Madame Thatcher), The King's Speech

It also seems that most biopics do not try to be cradle-to-grave.

MikeN said...

You say the whole country was united. That's not how Oliver Stone depicted it in JFK.
Did they include "Camelot" in the script? Because this is something JFK gets wrong. This was not used until sometime after his death.

Johnny Walker said...

Oliver Stone's JFK is 100% pure fiction. There's nothing accurate about what it depicts at all. It's a brilliantly made film though.

normadesmond said...

hmm, i adored CAROL.

Peter said...

You really couldn't make it up.

Debbie Reynolds RIP

Kaleberg said...

Jackie did have a second (or perhaps third) career as a book editor. That's definitely not a high profile job, but I've seen her work and she was pretty good at it.

Mike Barer said...

Heaven is just a much more entertaining place this year.

mdv59 said...

I have a feeling tomorrows post will not be about LA LA LAND.

Anonymous said...

If you had to ask what Jackie Kennedy did you obviously weren't there.
for three years she was unquestionably the most popular woman in America and probably the world.
She brought a sense style to the White House, though her interview and tour with Edward R. Murrow, bringing Pablo Casals to the White House and her impeccable fashion sense. *check out the guest list for the Casals concert - it has not been duplicated in the White House since).
She did this far better than Nancy Reagan or Michelle Obama without a hint of politics in it. Kennedy would joke about her style in his speeches in other countries- the man who accompanied Mrs. Kennedy.
Just as an indicator watch the Dick Van dyke episode "Coast to Coast Bigmouth", the one now colorized.
Watch the scene where Mary tyler Moore is in Alan Brady's office and see what she is wearing.
Whether you believe the original color was red or not, it is almost an exact copy of the Jackie Kennedy look.
It originally aired almost two years after she left the White House.
You don't see anything like that today.

Hollywoodaholic said...

The music was annoying. The pace was deliberately daze-like, and it's definitely an art film, which I usually avoid, but I disagree that it wasn't a pretty amazing film and a great script.

First, get that the entire thing was almost entirely close-ups of Jackie shot at exactly her shoulder height. The film literally puts all the weight on her (and Portman's shoulders).

Consider that the movie is about dealing with grief, and this subject suffered more than any human can imagine possible between the previous loss of a newborn child and a president husband and on a national stage.

John Hurt as the priest was really essential to help process that. Sure, the images of new dawn and everything are a bit heavy-handed. But also consider that in a time of comic book movies and entertainment that just loudly distracts you while you suck a 32-oz Coke, we are very lucky to have attempts like this to get us to experience something more.

Successful for some, not so much for others. But I grew up outside D.C. during that funeral walk and I took that walk again with Jackie here with a perspective I didn't have that first time (which was closer to John boys'). I didn't cry again, for myself of my country. I didn't pity. I was in awe of another type of dignity we're definitely unlikely to ever experience again from someone in that house.

Tom Galloway said...

You write: "Meanwhile, I wonder if young people who were not alive at the time were able to get the full impact of how unbearable that weekend was from this film.". Um, I just turned 56, and am right at the cusp of when someone might have had any memory of that weekend as I was just two weeks shy of turning three. Afraid it's way more than "young people" who don't recall Camelot at this point.

It does seem to me that I should recall all the adults acting strangely, if not knowing the reason why, but no memory at all of any such strangness. I do have some untimed memories from around then (mostly watching rocket launches on tv to which I can't assign a specific mission to), but my first memory that I can tie to a specific time/occasion isn't for a few months later when we moved houses/cities.

Roger Owen Green said...

Mick LaSalle HATED this film.

Laughably off-key and relentlessly dull, “Jackie” offers a postmodern vision of Jacqueline Kennedy, in which the tall, elegant first lady is depicted as a small, be-wigged nervous wreck. It is a mess of a film, botched but also misconceived, with a central performance by Natalie Portman that evokes nothing about Jackie Kennedy beyond the stylish clothes and the secret smoking...

Watch the scene in which Portman depicts Jackie’s 1962 White House tour. She plays it as if she wants to crawl out of her own skin, as though she might have a breakdown before the live TV cameras, and as if she memorized a few things about the furniture and the decor and was struggling not to forget her lines.
Then take a look at footage from that actual tour.