Jackie Oh

Went to see Jackie at the weekend. It’s a strange and impressive film. In a way, it’s making something out of not very much – JFK hadn’t had time to make much of a mark (apart from keeping the world up all night during the Bay of Pigs fiasco) and, though Jackie at one point says she is much more than a ‘silly debutante’, is she really? Her main achievement, before her husband’s death, seemed to be in buying excellence in bulk, whether it was paintings, furniture or the best performers. Is that hard, if you have pots of money and a powerful husband?

Jackie and Natalie at the White House – pic from Harper’s Bazaar

But I think the key to her and to the film is the triumph of style over virtually everything else. Jackie, fragile, broken, strong, hysterical and finally wily, takes her shallow, womanising husband and makes him, posthumously, into a great American icon. She fashions a backstory for him that is second to none, and does it all while everyone from the pedestrian replacement president downwards is wishing she would disappear down a hole as quickly as possible. All the while, JFK the man remains a strange void at the centre of the story. And the things that Jackie bought for the White House? They largely remain there, bringing a sense of history back to a place that had lost touch with its own past.

‘Mesmerising’ is over-used in film reviews but Nathalie Portman really is extraordinary as Jackie. Her grief is ghastly to watch and her determination is chilling. I also loved the use of discordant music throughout. It’s an odd movie – never has the arrival of a vanful of shop mannequins taken on such significance – but I think it’s an interesting re-evaluation of an unsung influence on American culture.

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