Tag Archives: JFK

Chappaquiddick

7 Apr

 

 

The infamous 1969 incident that left a woman dead and stunted Ted Kennedy’s political career gets framed in sharp historical and emotional focus by director John Curran (“The Painted Veil”), who goes about the task with an unflinching eye. If it weren’t for the family pedigree and myriad associated tragedies, the film might not find much of an audience beyond those in Massachusetts and old-school Kennedy loyalists, a small niche. Given the game performances and compelling peek behind the curtains, “Chappaquiddick” should register a larger audience based on world of mouth and strength of critical reviews.

What Curran and screenwriters Andrew Logan and Taylor Allen have done smartly, much like the makers of “Jackie” and “Sully,” is to steer away from the headline event (in those cases, the assassination of JFK and the “Miracle on the Hudson”) and home in on the quiet, torturous aftermath. Sure, we see the car driven by Teddy (Jason Clarke) go off the bridge of the Martha Vineyard isle of the film’s title and the young Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara, making the most of a brief, thankless role) struggle to keep breathing as the car fills slowly with water. The film’s not innately adoring of the Kennedys, nor does it seek to bury them. It works the facts and feels meticulously researched, though you can imagine there are alternative sides to some of the more intimate and personal interactions (those between Teddy and Mary Jo in the car and Teddy and his father alone in the Hyannis Port complex). Continue reading

Jackie

19 Dec
Director Pablo Larrain has worked on political films before, like 2012's 'No,' about the 1988 Chilean Pinochet referendum

Director Pablo Larrain has worked on political films before, like 2012’s ‘No,’ about the 1988 Chilean Pinochet referendum

Adversity is a great yardstick for character. Filmmakers in on this nugget of wisdom understand that the more compelling route to showcasing a historic icon is in the moments or incidents that come to define them, not the rote, cradle-to-the-grave biopic format. Selma did that for Martin Luther King (2014) as did Loving — albeit on a much smaller scale. Now we have Jackie, an up close and intimate inside look at the famous first lady in the immediate aftermath of her husband’s assassination.

The entire mood of Pablo Larraín’s film bears a thick, dour air atop a quiet, yet deep-rooted resolve. It’s an impressively bold attempt at such a revered presidency with much of the project’s success hanging on Natalie Portman’s fully-immersed and utterly mesmerizing portrait of the grieving first widow. Add to that Mica Levi’s beguiling score that palpably embosses the emotional undercurrent of every scene — if you’re unfamiliar with the composer, she brought a similarly aural pulse to Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin (2013) and with Jackie will surely become a hotly sought resource.

The film begins at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport, Mass. with an unnamed journalist (Billy Crudup, ostensibly based on Life magazine’s Theodore White who interviewed Jackie around that time). He arrives to get the scoop on the widow’s sense of loss. “There’s the truth that people believe,” Jackie tells him “and there’s what I know.” Thus setting the table for the back and forth parry, which while polite, often tilts towards the adversarial, though it does bear strokes of cathartic relief for Portman’s Ms. Kennedy. Throughout the interview the media savvy Jackie holds the reins tight as well as her inner turmoil. “You want me to describe the sound the bullet made when it collided with my husband’s skull?” she bluntly injects confronting the inevitable before the journalist can wind his way around to the question. From the journalist’s stunned face we then rewind to Dallas to that fateful day of Nov. 22, 1963. Continue reading