A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jackie is an intense, deeply moving portrait of First Lady Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman). It takes place on the day of President John F. Kennedy's assassination and the days right after. The film delves deeply into the pain of mourning and the aftermath of a national tragedy. Viewers will see the moment when JFK is shot in the head, as well as the first lady being overwhelmed by a grief that sometimes threatens to overcome her. She's also shown with blood on her clothes and body, and her naked back is seen during a shower scene. She drinks, smokes, and takes pills to dull her agony; swearing isn't frequent but includes "goddamn" and a couple uses of "f--k."
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No More Tweed & Puerility; Larraín & Portman Reinterpret The Truth That Almost No-One Knows About the American Canon
What's the story?
We all know what happened in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, half an hour past noon, when then-President John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson) was assassinated while riding in a motorcade, his wife, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman), by his side. But in JACKIE, we learn what happened in the hours and days after the horrific tragedy -- and how Jackie coped with the monumental loss of her husband, with whom she had a complicated marriage. We see first-hand the toll that grief takes, even as Jackie prepares to preserve JFK's legacy while also finding a way to hang onto her true self. Told in a series of flashbacks as Jackie recounts those days to a journalist (Billy Crudup) during an often-thorny interview, this moving drama is a portrait of the iconic first lady as we've never seen her before. Peter Sarsgaard and Greta Gerwig co-star.
Is it any good?
This intense drama is a must see, not just for history buffs, but for anyone who wants to understand what mourning and the stewardship of an important but complicated legacy is like. Jackie tells a well-known story in a new way by adjusting its focus. Rather than putting the spotlight on the assassination's weight on the country as a whole, it centers on a woman, her children, and her struggle to make sense of a loss that doesn't just feel historic but also deeply personal.
Director Pablo Larrain creates a movie that's both lyrical and arresting, as well as a stunning exploration of grief brought to life by Portman. Her face is a canvas of ever-changing emotions as she struggles with rage, heartache, confusion, fear, and love. And Larrain adds depth to an already complex tale by refracting Jackie's story through the prism of a journalist. At first the interview-with-flashbacks device feels worrisomely artificial, but in the end it helps give voice to larger questions about legacy (questions that's also been explored in the Broadway hit Hamilton): Who lives, who dies, who tells your story? Who's in charge of your narrative? Jackie isn't a perfect film, but it perfectly captures the messy power of grief and United States' challenges as it cycles from one administration to the next, from periods of prosperity and triumph to struggles and dissent, always cast against the almighty backdrop of history.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes Jackie so intense. Is it the subject matter? The actors' performances? How is it different from what you might read in a history book?
How historically accurate do you think the movie is? Why might filmmakers decide to tweak/change some facts? How could you find out more about the actual events and people portrayed in the film?
How can truth and a specific person's version of the truth clash when it comes to history? Are they one and the same? What role do the press and historians play in shaping these versions?
What did you learn about Jacqueline Kennedy from this story? How could you find out more about her?
- In theaters: December 2, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: March 7, 2017
- Cast: Natalie Portman, Billy Crudup, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig
- Director: Pablo Larrain
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models, History
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: brief strong violence and some language
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