For those of you who remember Nov. 22, 1963, you don’t have to worry about “Jackie” ripping your heart out. It was already ripped out, and in some ways it will never completely heal.
Directed by Pablo Larraín, this film revisits the assassination of JFK as seen through the eyes of his widow, Jackie Kennedy. Natalie Portman, in a performance likely to win an Oscar nomination, embodies Jackie with a stunned fury that is emotionally overpowering. You see Jackie during the days after her husband’s death as she wrestles with her grief while trying to plan a funeral that will pay tribute to both her late husband and our country.
While a small portion of the film revisits Jackie’s televised tour of the White House months earlier, she gives her personal narrative to a journalist, here played by Billy Crudup, shortly after a funeral procession seen by millions. The interview itself plays out like a psychological boxing match where the journalist asks tough questions that Jackie frequently refuses to answer, in the process revealing a chain-smoking habit hidden from the public.
It is almost impossible to watch as she describes the moment in Dallas where her husband is initially shot through the throat and then in his head. Everything is accurately re-enacted, and few will be able to hold back flowing tears as you watch her hold her husband’s savagely deformed head in her lap as she is covered with blood. You also quickly learn why Jackie decided to wear that blood-streaked pink suit throughout the day, which included standing next to Lyndon Johnson as he was sworn in as our next president on Air Force One.
Peter Sarsgaard gives a convincing performance as Bobby Kennedy, a brother-in-law who tried to both console and advise Jackie. His grief is obvious, and one of the most fascinating moments of the film is when he and Jackie wrestle over whether to have a long procession on foot following JFK’s casket. Jackie stood by her decision even though world leaders would be exposed to possible violence if Oswald did not act alone.
While I didn’t need to be reminded, one thing jumped out at me throughout this poignant historical drama. In the early 1960s, a giant chasm developed in our country reflected by when you graduated from high school. Those who did in 1963 or before inevitably led a life resembling our parents’, while those graduating in 1964 and after soon resembled aliens living in a new world.
Having graduated from high school in 1965, I lived through that experience. For the most part, our loving parents could not fully understand the significance of Vietnam and rock music that began with the British invasion of 1964. Furthermore, wearing long hair was as likely to alienate parents as chanting, “Hell no, we won’t go” did to veterans of World War II.
JFK’s death was the death of Camelot, a phrase coined by Jackie. No one who lived through it ever smiled the same again, and you will quickly learn why if you see this film.
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” crushed the competition at the box office over the holidays for good reason. It tells a dark, brooding story about a group of unconnected people who are willing to risk their lives to destroy the Empire’s Death Star.
What is remarkable about the film’s success is that it has mostly unrecognizable actors filling the screen. The exception is Felicity Jones, who plays Jyn Erso, an ex-convict who has had to live through her parents’ horrible deaths in order to lead the rebel cause. For those of you saying “Felicity who?”, remember that she received an Oscar nomination for her role as the wife of scientist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” (2014). On top of that, take the time to hunt down her magnificent role in “Like Crazy” (2011), not to mention her upcoming performance in the exciting “A Monster Calls.”
Jyn is joined by a group of fellow rebels led by Diego Luna as Cpt. Cassian Andor. The two quietly develop a relationship that challenges both of them. Mads Mikkelsen gives a heartwarming performance as Jyn’s father, and it is worth remembering his performance as the villain Kaecilius in this year’s “Doctor Strange.”
But there are other intriguing performances in this fine film, led by Alan Tudyk’s performance as the android K-2SO. He may be one of the more sarcastic, humorous androids in the history of film, and he adds to the rich memory of R2D2 and C3PO. In addition, Ben Mendelsohn is always compelling when he plays a nasty character, and he succeeds here as Orson Krennic, the designer of the Empire’s Death Star. I must also note that the film is immensely helped by performances from Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang and Riz Ahmed, an eccentric trio who commit themselves to a mission with Jyn where success will likely result in death.
What makes this movie so compelling is what eventually happens to all of our heroes. Sometimes the definition of a true hero is a person who is willing to sacrifice his or her life so that friends and colleagues can live a better life.
How ironic that John Glenn and Carrie Fisher died in 2016. Movie imagination mixed with actual history as we experience the joy of space travel. God speed to all of us, and may the force be with you.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.