Jackie Kennedy, one of the most famous First Ladies in United States history, has been a supporting player in countless stories about her late husband, the assassinated John F. Kennedy. Now she steps into the theatrical spotlight in the new release Jackie. Natalie Portman plays the title character as we follow her in the days immediately following Jack’s death and the role she played as a country mourned a young, energetic President cut down in his prime.
It’s not *just* about that, though. It’s also simply about a woman who refuses to be bent by circumstances through a mix of personal character and strength and a sense of duty to those around her. So it also tells the story of how Jackie worked in the aftermath of assassination to cement not just her late husband’s legacy but also, it turns out, her own.
The one and only poster resuses the initial publicity still of Portman standing in a red dress. It’s a simple image, with just the movie’s title, Portman’s name and that of the director, all against a solid red background. There’s no copy or tagline or anything else, so the movie is being sold her solely on the power of Portman’s name and drawing power.
The first trailer is obsessed with Camelot, with the song of that name playing in the background and frequent references to it in Jackie’s narration. Along with all that we get shots from throughout the movie, showing her in her role as wife, First Lady, media personality, mother, widow and more. It’s all jumbled together to create a sweeping sense of the action until it ends with Jackie intoning that there will never be another Camelot.
There’s no real sense of the story here but that’s alright. What does come across is that the movie features a stunning performance from Portman and covers the full breadth of Jackie’s life. It looks highly-stylized and emotional.
The second trailer digs more deeply into the story, starting off with Jackie’s life as the First Lady and following her through the assassination and everything that comes after it. It presents the movie as a kind of fever dream as Jackie dips in and out of passionate outbursts and cool, stoic resolve, all while trying to keep herself and her family together.
The focus is still on Portman, of course, and she’s in almost every frame of the trailer. But it’s also determined to show off an attitude and look, to present Jackie as a complex character and have the style of the movie mimic what her emotional and mental state likely was at the time. It’s even more powerful than the first for the deeper dive it gives into the subject matter.
Online and Social
It takes a little bit for the official website to load as it draws out Jackie’s signature. Once it does, though, you can watch a video that’s not the trailer but might be one of the TV spots. Either way it’s worth checking out.
The first section on the site is “Cast/Characters.” That’s just a drop-down menu that has the names of the actors and the characters they play that, when you click on one of the names, brings up a still of them along with a quote from someone connected with the movie about their performance. The same is true of “Filmmakers,” which has quotes from that person themselves.
The “Photos” section is very cool, featuring a number of production stills that have been formatted to look like old black and white photos from the era the story takes place in. Finally, “Videos” just has the teaser and theatrical trailers.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots like this one sold the movie very much as a Jackie biopic, but one that taps into Baby Boomer nostalgia, with talk of Camelot and the images that will be recognizable to anyone who lived through that era, as well as those who grew up in its immediate aftermath. Portman continues to shine as she acts and reacts to everything that’s going on around her and it closes with an intonation that people will remember her for the way she acted in this period.
Online ads also used the key art to drive awareness and ticket sales.
Media and Publicity
The first publicity for the movie came in the form of an official still of Portman as the title character that debuted on Deadline. Much later it was announced the movie would screen at the Toronto International Film Festival. With the movie at Venice, both Portman and director Pablo Larrain talked about the story they were trying to tell, what the movie will and won’t cover, the dangers of taking on such a well known personality and more. In addition to that the movie was very well received, with lots of praise for Portman’s performance.
The movie screened at the New York Film Festival, where Portman talked about getting involved in the movie and getting to know Larrain’s style, finding the voice she adopts while playing Jackie and more.
Portman also made the rounds of the late night and morning talk shows to talk about taking on such a well-known real-life character and engaging in host-encouraged antics.
I mentioned above that there was a lot of nostalgia going on here, particularly to those who spent their early adult or other formative years in the 1960s. It’s tempting to look at that and say the movie is a heavy-handed appeal to those older Academy voters who still wield outsized influence on the voting block and so are going to lap up this kind of story, which directly relates to their lives. I don’t know if that’s exactly the case, but it’s hard to overlook that built-in audience. Portman’s involvement and her reputation is the only thing that might attract younger members of the general audience, who have little to no connection to the subject matter.
All that aside, the movie is being sold straight up as an awards centerpiece. The stylish look and mannered camera work and performances are all put in the spotlight in the campaign, selling audiences on a distinct visual style even more than the story itself. From Portman’s restrained presence and pill box hats to the way the camera frames her in every scene, it’s clear that the main point the studio thinks will differentiate the movie is the visual look and feel. Hard to argue with that assumption.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
Natalie Portman appeared on “Saturday Night Live” to promote her upcoming Annihilation but in one sketch recreated her performance as the widow of John F. Kennedy in one skit to offer some First Lady advice to Melania Trump. She also updated her foul-mouthed rap career, including references to the Star Wars Prequels and Black Swan.