From the opening chords to the score of Jackie, something feels a bit off.
I get it, we’re thrust into the life of Jacqueline Kennedy in the days immediately following the assassination of her husband, so it’s not surprising that director Pablo Larrain would try to make the experience as dissonant as possible for us, as whatever he does can barely scratch the surface of what Mrs. Kennedy must have been going through. But what he does jumps around so much, and is so disjointed, I’m not sure that it actually works.
Larrain skips around in time, showing us Jackie in the hours after JFK’s death, showing us the few hours before his death, jumping to her trying to figure out how to tell her children their father isn’t coming home, talking to a priest about her own desire simply to escape the horror. And while it’s not hard to follow, exactly, the fractured timeline does seem to suck a bit of the real emotion out of what we’re watching. Again, Jackie, herself, is fractured, so I understand the choice, but we occasionally have to work so hard to stay with the story that we can’t really be with her as she goes through this ordeal.
This is all compounded by the fact that we’re occasionally jerked out of this aftermath of the assassination by seeing Jackie in an interview that must be taking place weeks later, as she talks to a journalist about her mindset following the president’s death and where she’s going from there. Whatever emotional investment we may have started to build is yanked out from under us every time we jump back to this strange interlude.
Certainly, though, the movie has moments that are important and powerful. The subject matter itself can hardly avoid that, and one scene where Jackie goes through her entire closet, trying on clothes while listening to a recording of Camelot, is especially effective as she tries to make some little sense of her world. And an undercurrent running throughout the movie shows us that even a woman as powerful as Jackie Kennedy is still undermined and condescended to by the men around her as she tries to do what she thinks is right for herself and her husband, while they tell her what she can and can’t do at nearly every turn.
Sadly, we’re pushed and pulled so much that even these scenes quickly give way to others that may or may not carry the same resonance, giving us that fractured feeling, but keeping us from real, deep emotion.