Jacqueline Kennedy is the subject (played by Natalie Portman), interviewed a few days after the funeral of President J.F.K. by a nameless newspaper reporter (Billy Crudup), and now revealing a very different persona to the manufactured one that she'd displayed to the world up to just a few days before.
The film concentrates on two aspects - viz. the period between the assassination in 1963 and the burial in Arlington National Cemetery - and the televised 'tour' of the White House that Mrs Kennedy filmed in 1961, a few months after her husband's inauguration.
Even though the film, when shorn of the opening titles and end credits, is only a little over an hour and half long, I did find the material rather thin to be stretched over that time, with the result that it seemed needlessly attenuated now and then.
But even more importantly, as one who still vividly remembers those earth-shaking days, as well as the earlier TV programme, I did find myself constantly struggling to see Natalie Portman as the (former) First Lady. Hair style and clothing is, of course, presented to perfection, but I think that facially she only resembles her very, very approximately. I had to keep reminding myself that Portman was doing a portrayal rather than an impersonation but I did find the lack of close resemblance off-putting. (I am perfectly aware that Portman has received an Oscar nomination for the part). I'm sure that those younger viewers for whom the image of Mrs K was not an intrinsic part of their lives will be able to accept Portman's role easier than I could.
Robert Kennedy, J.F.K.'s brother, is played by Peter Sasgaard (also not looking very like the original) and Jackie's female assistant and confidante is Greta Gerwig, whom it is always good to see. A more poignant note is struck by seeing John Hurt, who died only a few days ago, here in his final role, as Jackie's wise old priest, one of the few to whom she can open up her mind.
The interview which frames the film, as well as frequent returns to it, shows Jackie taking absolute control, demanding complete editing rights - a steely side which we weren't aware of at the time. On the other hand, in the White House tour she is portrayed as unsure, a bit shaky and nervous, and having to look to the side for prompts, aspects which I don't recall picking up from the actual programme at the time. But then I haven't seen it since then. Maybe I'd notice such things if I saw it again.
The funeral arrangements are laboriously drawn out, with Mrs K changing her mind, arguing with others of different opinions such as whether to follow the hearse in a closed car or to walk behind it, leading all the foreign dignitaries, and thus risk another assassination attempt, not least to herself and her two young children.
The showing of the actual assassination is held back until near the end of the film, and it is rather bloody (though brief), resulting in her iconic, pink two-piece being blood- and brain-spattered, an image we see a number of times earlier in the film.
I thought the film was okay, but not special enough to be as memorable as I'd been banking on. Chilean director Pablo Larrain manages fair enough with his material, but there weren't any moments which made me sit up and think "This is good!" It was useful in finding out things which I didn't know, such as that she was a heavy smoker, something which had been kept from the public. I wasn't even aware that the president himself smoked - and of course it was only years later that we got to know of his serious physical ailments, details of which, nowadays, it would be impossible to keep out of the media.
It's not a bad film, but it's not one that I'd urge people to see unless, like me, you are curious about filling in the gaps of your knowledge around this momentous, tragic event..........6.