The first televised presidential debate in America took place in 1960, pitting the tanned and dapper John F. Kennedy against the sallow and literally sick Richard Nixon. It was a tumultuous time for the country, with each candidate taking tough questions ranging from the cold war to civil rights issues. Radio listeners considered the debate a draw. Television viewers, on the other hand, pronounced it a landslide victory for Kennedy.
In many ways, this was the birth of modern political personas, and few have harnessed that power quite like the Kennedys. Americans gobbled up their young, trendsetting first family, and when an assassin’s bullet took out John, the iconography the family had established followed them through their mourning.
At the center of the national outcry was Jackie Kennedy, at once impossible to miss and hopelessly opaque. Her persona kept reality away from the public eye, which leaves a biopic of the sudden widower very open to interpretation.
There’s always the opportunity for the safe, traditional route, but nothing about Jackie screams safety. How often has uninspired biopics garnered the kind of critical reception Jackie has received? How about the film’s screenplay win at the Venice Film Festival? Or its inclusion (and win) in the Platform section of TIFF, with the three-person jury of Brian De Palma, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, and Zhang Ziyi picking it over the narratively ambitious pieces that define the section?
Jackie sees Chilean director Pablo Larraín make his first film in the U.S., which helpfully sets it apart from Neruda, his other critically acclaimed and reportedly inventive biopic currently being released. Jackie is not his baby, though. The project originally had Darren Aronofsky attached as director, but after languishing in development hell, Aronofsky moved to producer and the project resurfaced with Larraín at the helm. Is that Aronofsky connection enough to dispel the last whiff of biopic boredom?
The film is being positioned by distributor Fox Searchlight for an awards season run, but if it’s truly an unusual take on Jackie’s post-assassination days, then the film may be too out there for that traditionalist crowd. It’s most solid category will likely be Best Actress, with Natalie Portman as Jackie looking to command nearly every moment of the film. She’s no stranger to the shenanigans of awards season, and that’s because she took a risk on Aranofsky’s ballet thriller Black Swan. Could Jackie be another risk that pays off in gold?
Jackie is directed by Pablo Larraín and stars Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, and Greta Gerwig. It will be released in the U.S. on December 2nd, 2016. For international release dates, click here.
Do you think Jackie will be an ambitious or basic biopic? Let us know in the comments!
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