BEFORE: I forgot to mention the other day that I was watching an Academy screener of "Snowden", because the film was not yet available on cable. Actually it was available On Demand for $3.99, and when I finally made the decision to buy it, suddenly it was no longer available. So that's not my fault - I'll DVR it as soon as it appears on a premium channel, since I get all of those. That's my excuse for breaking the rules and watching the screener, anyway - and tonight I'm watching another Academy screener, in order to keep the chain alive.
So Natalie Portman carries over from "Hesher", and that's really all I want to know about this film. Please, no spoilers. JK, the president gets shot. If that comes as a shocker to you, please go read a history book.
I just watched the first four episodes of this show "Genius" on the NatGeo channel, which is all about Albert Einstein, his early life anyway (so far) though the first episode bounced around in time between his young life and his older life, and you know that's become my personal bugaboo. The later episodes at least cooled it with the time-jumping a little, to better focus on his formal education (or lack thereof) and his first marriage and jobs as a math tutor and patent clerk. Really, you can't have many spoilers or surprises in such a biopic - except I was intrigued to learn that even back then, people calling him "Hey, Einstein!" sarcastically was intended to poke fun at how he seemed smart, but often acted dumb or foolishly.
THE PLOT: Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children and define her husband's historic legacy.
AFTER: Yep, you guessed it, more flashback stuff tonight, which means this film got on my nerves from the get-go. The WHOLE STORY is in the past, so why do we need to jump around so much? Wouldn't it be more informative to let the story play out in the order it happened, so we can gain more insight into how Jackie felt at THIS moment, because we know what happened right before? Instead we get a framing sequence with Jackie being interviewed by a journalist, then the assassination of JFK, the aftermath and the planning of the funeral, even the move out of the White House is then presented in (more or less) random flashback order. To make things even more confusing, there are flashbacks WITHIN flashbacks, no lie, when Jackie is telling the journalist about walking through the halls of the White House after the assassination (but before the move, presumably) she recalls that at the time, she was remembering John Jr.'s birthday party at the White House, so then we see that footage. Or within the flashback of Jackie's famous televised tour of the White House, she mentions the time they had a command performance from Pablo Casals, so then we see that footage.
By the end of things, time had lost all meaning - and I had no idea what happened before what. Well, Einstein did say that time is all relative, but somehow I don't think this is what he was talking about.
History porn - did we really need to see the headshot in such graphic detail? Apparently so, because that's what all you jackal historians wanted to see. You should be ashamed of yourself. The point of the whole film is that Jackie was a dignified woman who acted with dignity, and then the film invades her privacy by showing removing her blood-soaked nylons and then crying in the shower. Now I'm the one who feels really dirty, was such detail really necessary?
For that matter, is this entire film even necessary? I mean, the details of JFK's assassination and funeral are well documented, and so is Jackie's televised tour of the White House. I mean, we've got that on video, or at least a kinescope, right? So why do we need a recreation of it, with an actress vainly trying to reproduce her Long Island-yet-refined accent. All that this brings to the table is an imagining of the private moments in-between, and those were, umm, private. Plus, we can probably imagine that she was grieving, in shock, confused about how to proceed. Those are all normal feelings when dealing with the death of a loved one. She talked to her priest, she changed the minute details of the funeral procession, she packed up her clothes. Who the hell cares?
Seriously, if you're a devotee of the Kennedy era, and you want to peek behind the curtain and get excited about what Jackie Kennedy might have talked about with staffers like Jack Valenti or Larry O'Brien, then this is the film for you. But otherwise, I think it's a pass. It might have been a travesty if Natalie Portman had won an Oscar for this, because so much of it consists of long shots of her staring into the camera. Grief and shock, while significant human emotions, just do not play well on film.
They're running "Bobby" on cable now, about the assassination of Robert Kennedy - my new rules say I could link from this film to that one, because characters carry over, but I think I'm going to schedule that film for June, I need to link out of the film "Room" - and with such a large cast, I'm thinking I could go just about anywhere after that. And I think that film would pair nicely with this one on a DVD.
Also starring Peter Sarsgaard (last seen in "Black Mass"), Greta Gerwig (last seen in "To Rome With Love"), Billy Crudup (last seen in "Everyone Says I Love You"), John Hurt (last heard in "Thumbelina"), Richard E. Grant (last seen in "Logan"), John Carroll Lynch (also carrying over from "Hesher"), Caspar Phillipson, Beth Grant (last seen in "Matchstick Men"), Max Casella (last seen in "Inside Llewyn Davis"), Sara Verhagen, Helene Kuhn, Corey Johnson (last seen in "Ex Machina"), Deborah Findlay, Aidan O'Hare, Ralph Brown (last seen in"Amistad"), Georgie Glen (last seen in "Calendar Girls"), Julie Judd (last seen in "Head in the Clouds"), Barbara Foliot, Patrick Hamel, Frederique Adler, Craig Sechler.
RATING: 3 out of 10 pillbox hats