“If he lives to the same age his father did, I’ll be 43 when he dies,” I said, laughing at how far away that impossible number seemed.
I turned 40 last week. My husband is in good health (for a man of his advanced age, HI HONEY!), but I’d be lying if I said there’s not a small part of my brain constantly reminding me that he — we — have three years left.
“Jackie” is the story of one of the most famous young widows in history: Jackie Kennedy was 34 when her husband was assassinated. I’ve only seen the archival footage that all of us have seen, with Jackie stoic and elegant, a reassuring symbol to a reeling country. She’s the epitome of the “good widow”: grieving, yes, but strong and resilient. A Good Widow accepts help, of course, but her primary function is to radiate comfort to those around her — her children, perhaps, but also to others. I think it’s because we often look to those who are currently handling tragedy for lessons on how we’ll handle it when tragedy inevitably strikes us. “If she can get through this,” we think, “I’ll be able to when it’s my turn.” That phenomenon is particularly prevalent among women, since we so often turn into caretakers at the expense of our own needs; being a Good Widow means, at least in part, that she is being a Good Woman.
Wow, is the Jackie in “Jackie” not a Good Widow. At times she pulls her stuff together — for the long walk down Pennsylvania Avenue behind the casket, taking her children to see their father’s coffin lying in state at the Capitol. When she doesn’t have to keep it together, though, Jackie is clearly losing her GD mind, as one might if the last embrace one gave one’s 46-year-old husband included getting soaked with his blood and brain matter.
Natalie Portman plays Jackie with an underlying edge of madness and the alertness of an injured animal. When she’s with other people with whom she can let her guard down a little, we can sense her tenuous grasp on sanity and her close proximity to an emotional explosion. When she’s alone, she drinks and blares music and drinks some more. For the first time, I felt kinship with Jackie — I don’t think I’d be a Good Widow. I think I’d be the type of raging, broken, drunk widow she is here.
Movies have dealt with widowhood before, but “Jackie” absolutely dismantles the cliches: There is no artful slide down a wall, tears slowly falling. There is no healing moment (ideally on the beach at sunrise). There isn’t even a rage-filled tirade against God. Instead, “Jackie” is about tension and terror and an ungodly amount of vodka. It’s about what really lies behind the Good Widow’s veil.
More Reelists from Kristen Page-Kirby