Another First Glance: “Jackie”

Biographical films are not always equal, but they almost all tend to have the same formula dictating how the film unfolds. Only the very fortunate, those in capable hands, are able to break that mold and do something that’s not only somewhat fresh, but shows true creativeness. It’s the only way to take a decent biographical film and turn it into something more.

The upcoming Fox Searchlight Pictures film “Jackie”, looks like one powerful examination of loss and keeping up appearances, that it should have every viewer reexamining their own ideas on these topics.

This biographical drama stars Natalie Portman (upcoming “Weightless”, “Jane Got a Gun”), Peter Sarsgaard (“The Magnificent Seven (2016)”, “Black Mass”), Gret Gerwig (upcoming “20th Century Women”, “The Mindy Project”), Richard E. Grant (upcoming “Their Finest”, “Game of Thrones”), Billy Crudup (upcoming “20th Century Women”, “Spotlight”), and John Hurt (“The Last Panthers”, “Hercules”).

The film is directed by Pablo Larrain (upcoming “Neruda”, “The Club”) and written by Noah Oppenheim (“Allegiant”, “The Maze Runner”).

The film is expected to open in a limited run on Dec. 2, 2016 and open wide later on.

The upside to not knowing what you’re going to write about next, you get to be surprised with something as moving as this trailer. It just fell into my lap and I knew instantly, that this one needed to come first. That’s also the downside of multiple trailers being released at the same time. Regardless, it was well worth it, and now I’m certain that I have yet another film I want to see. With last year being such a big year for me and films, I’m thinking this year may come in second, if not about on par.

What is there to say? Plenty, but the problem is actually with the how. I don’t know what will suffice..

I can say, and hopefully this was what happened for other people, that I couldn’t look away. When the trailer finished for the second time, I looked at my notes, only to discover that I’d written nothing down. I couldn’t bring myself to miss a second. There’s so much in the trailer, that I definitely feel I know what type of film this is going to be. Aside from any awards consideration, I just hope this film can break out enough, and reach a wide audience. Wider than what studio heads and any other person involved in the film hopes for. It deserves to be seen. It needs to be seen.

Now the why.

This film, along with Portman’s performance, which was on full display, look intense, powerful, emotional, and deeply personal. Yes, in so many ways, it’s already obvious that the majority of people who view this film won’t be able to relate at all. How could they? But the way that Oppenheim and Larrain seem to command all the actors and take charge of the narrative, will most definitely be the way in. If any film makes you become a puddle or close to it, this film may be it.

Visually it’s already incredible. You’re there. What I want to know is, how exactly are we going to be taken there? Portman’s Jackie appears to be doing an interview with Crudup, and in between those bits are various moments during and after President Kennedy’s assassination, but also some lighter moments that seem to show just how good things were. Where do those bits come in? How? Originally, after the first viewing, I thought perhaps the film would be quite bold and begin with the sequence that would ultimately claim Kennedy’s life. Then the film would go from there. Now I’m not so sure. Crudup’s interview could easily start us and then we basically spend the whole film in lengthy and personal flashbacks. That alone, if done well, wouldn’t be a bad way to go.

Because the subject matter isn’t simply about retelling and/or imagining what the real Jackie Kennedy had to go through after her husband was killed, but to examine her in a deeper way, along with the themes of loss and public versus private, there’s a lot more to take hold of and find interesting. Some of the best film’s I’ve seen in the past year have done similar things. Maybe it wasn’t a theme directly, but the film’s I’ve loved most provided me with so much more than strong performances and a good final film. They gave me something to reflect on. This will definitely be like those films, but I’m hoping in a much more painful way. In a way that can elicit more from audiences than just your average amount of sympathy. That we can feel what Kennedy feels in a very honest way. Exploring these themes in film isn’t new, but the approach and overall takeaway is.

With Portman in the lead, and again, already showing what a deep and nuanced performance we’re going to get, this film doesn’t seem like it can go wrong. If the other emotional and human story elements can come together, coupled with all the beauty that brings the film to life, audiences will get so much more than just another formula fueled biographical film.

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