Saw Natalie Portman’s oscar vehicle, Jackie, last night. It was an ambitious movie: a character piece about what Jackie Kennedy did in the seven days after her husband’s assassination. I appreciated the flintiness of her characterization, and it’s interesting, as always, to see how much of the Kennedy mythos was self-created. Those people were constantly self-mythologizing. I mean look at how Kennedy was packaged: not only a war, but also a Pullitzer Prize-winning writer? He was supposed to be everything: young, erudite, idealistic–the whole package. I guess this is how Democrats package our Presidents nowadays, because Bill Clinton, Obama, Gore, and Kerry all tried to be something similar. But that’s an aside.
The movie though was not good. It wasn’t a character-based story. The conflict in the story was all over Kennedy’s funeral. Jackie wanted it to have lots of pomp. Johnson thought that it might be a target for further attacks, and he wanted something lower-key (but still presumably with lots of pomp). And the movie kept trying to make the case that all the hoopla Jackie assembled was somehow of benefit to the country? I just didn’t buy it.
The size of Kennedy’s funeral just did not matter one bit. No matter what she did, it always would’ve been big. There is an argument to be made that if she and Bobby hadn’t preserved the Kennedy name and massaged his history, we would see him very differently today (as a failure, more or less), but this movie didn’t successfully make that argument