Movies: Hidden Figures

 

Hidden Figures in conjunction with Loving provide a history lesson that everyone should  be aware of. The two films take place in roughly the same timeframe in Virginia and show what life was like in a segregated state not so long ago. In addition, Hidden Figures reminds us of what women had to face in the workplace prior to the equal rights movement. The film’s story of how three brilliant young African-American women helped the USA send men into space and win the race with the Russians is nothing short of inspiring.   These women had so much to overcome yet persevered and succeeded.

We are first introduced to Katherine Gobel Johnson as a child math genius in West Virginia. A jump in time and she (Taraji P. Henson) and her friends (Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughn and Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson) work in the “Colored Computer” division of the Langley research center in Hampton Roads Virginia. It is called the computer division because this was a time when people who were really good at math on adding machines were called computers. The film takes place in the early 60s, everything is completely segregated in Virginia and NASA’s Space Task Group is no exception. The Engineer in charge, Al Harrison (played by Kevin Costner) needs someone with knowledge of Analytic Geometry and Johnson (then Gobel) is sent over. To say her reception by a bunch of white guy engineers was frosty would be an understatement.

These three women all had brilliant minds and despite continual discrimination slowly become appreciated by some in NASA. Kevin Costner’s character is under intense pressure to get an American into space after the Russians launched both Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin. He is focused on calculating all of the requirements for launch, orbit and reentry and he comes to appreciate Johnson, the “human computer” and breaks down barriers so that he can maximize her knowledge to achieve his goals. Nothing is easy for her in this environment, including her having to run 1-½ miles to the “colored” bathroom every time she needs to relieve herself and Harrison helps remove these obstacles. He also showcases Johnson to the military brass and ultimately John Glen refuses to go into space without her calculations which proved to be critical to his mission’s success.

Dorothy Vaughn realizes that her group of African-American mathematicians is going to be rendered useless as the first IBM mainframes are brought in and teaches herself Fortran and how to use the computer. She is able to retrain all of her employees and they become instrumental in the successful conversion to computers. Mary Jackson breaks barriers in her pursuance of an Engineering degree having to convince a judge to allow her to take the required courses at an all white high school.

Everyone should see this movie to appreciate the history as well as the present day implications. I think my only critique of the film is the lack of character development of the Vaughn and Jackson characters as well as Johnson’s husband Jim played by an under-used Mahershala Ali. It would have been nice to have them as flushed out as Johnson.  The acting is solid by Henson, Costner, Spencer and Ali but Janelle Monae really excells as Mary Jackson. It has been a great year for her with parts in Moonlight and Hidden Figures and she shined bright in both. The score by Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams is great and I still have “Runnin” repeating in my head.  See this movie!

Movies: La La Land, Weiner and the Best of 2016

Awards season is in full swing and I’m trying to get to as many of the potential Oscar nominations as possible over the next few weeks. Here are two along with what I thought were the best movies of 2016.

La La Land

I really liked La La Land. Did I love it? No. Do I think it should win Best Picture? No. Should everyone see it? Probably. The first and third acts are the best. The middle drags and I confess I did nod off during that part, but this homage to the great musicals of the past has many moments of brilliance and the last 10 minutes are stunning.  La La Land (LA land) is the story of Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) struggling to find their respective success in LA. Mia is an actress keeping herself alive by being a barista and Sebastian (Seb) is a jazz musician hoping to open his own club. In the meantime he plays the piano for anyone who will hire him.

The movie starts out on a high note with a wonderful sequence on a gridlocked LA freeway. There is at least a five-minute singing and dancing routine as one by one, the occupants of the cars get out to join in. Mia and Seb first encounter each other at the end of the number and enjoy a few other chance meetings before love blossoms. The middle part of the movie follows their respective career struggles as they also try to create and maintain a lasting relationship. The main theme of the movie is clearly the price of following one’s dreams and ambitions and it is woven throughout the film.

I won’t give away the end, as it is bittersweet and pretty much perfect. It is one I want to see again because I know I missed things. I’m not a big musical person so this homage to the great ones of the past is pretty much lost on me, but I do know that Gosling and Stone are no Astaire and Rodgers. Their acting, however, is flawless and every accolade they are getting is well deserved. Before the awards season finishes, everyone should see Manchester By the Sea, Moonlight and La La Land.

Weiner

Weiner is now streaming on multiple platforms and I must have been pretty desperate for something to watch on TV because I decided to check it out. I guess my excuse is that it is being nominated by many groups for Best Documentary so in my attempt to see as much as I can before the Oscars, I saw it. “Weiner” is essentially the story of his ill-fated mayoral campaign after a self-imposed exile from politics following his first sexting scandal. The filmmakers seemingly had full access to Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin as the film unfolds and Weiner looks as if he is going to make a major comeback as he runs for mayor.

This all falls apart completely when a 23 year-old woman announces she and Weiner had a long sexting history. It is shocking that the Weiners continued to allow the filmmakers to film the resulting disastrous impact on both the campaign and the personal relationship of the couple. What is even more amazing is that Huma continued to stay with him until after the film had been released. It was only after a worse sexting scandal erupted this summer that she left him. Weiner is a narcissist with big problems and this film gets to the heart of his personality as it traces what the filmmakers saw as his final fall from grace little knowing what was to come after. “Weiner” is an excellent documentary if you can stand the subject matter.

The Best of 2016

In the spirit of Awards Season, I’m going to provide a list of what I thought were the best movies I saw this year in no particular order. They are all worth checking out!

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

La La Land

Lion

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Arrival

The Lobster

Hell or High Water

O.J. Made in America

Sully

Love and Friendship

The Dark Horse (not to be confused with “Dark Horse” which is supposed to be very good but I didn’t see)

I also want to give a shout out to three movies that had elements of greatness, particularly acting, but weren’t very fun to watch.

Elle (for the amazing performance of Isabelle Huppert)

Certain Women (for the acting – particularly Kristin Stewart and Lily Gladstone)

Birth of a Nation (particularly the acting but also the history)

Finally, I haven’t yet seen Hidden Figures or Fences, which likely would have landed up on this list.

Books: Philippa Gregory’s Three Sisters, Three Queens and the new Bohjalian Short Story: The Premonition

 

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory

I have read most of the books in Philippa Gregory’s Tudor and Plantagenet series.  They are usually relatively short, fast paced and an enjoyable way to learn more about the lesser known royals in an important time in English history.  So, with anticipation, I purchased Gregory’s latest, Three Sisters, Three Queens which focuses on Margaret Tudor and her relationship with her “sisters” Katherine of Aragon and Mary Tudor.  It turned out to be one of my least favorite books written by Gregory.

First, it is way too long at close to 600 pages and if the subject had been a little more likeable, that might have worked out.   However, Margaret was depicted by the author as selfish, competitive and the biggest whiner in royal history – a thoroughly contemptable person.  While the whining eased off a bit in the second half of the book, I was so sick of this Queen by the time I got there, I was disengaged.  I found it intriguing  in the epilogue that the author said that there is very little source material on Margaret so I guess this personality was developed by the Gregory based on a scarcity of information.  Given that, I’m not sure why she chose to make her so miserable.

Margaret is Henry VIII’s sister.  She is married off to the King of Scotland who dies early in the book but not before Margaret bore him a male heir.  She then takes up with a young Scottish nobleman and marries him but he proves to be rather treacherous, and is  unfaithful to her.  This becomes an even worse situation for her because Henry takes her husband’s side and makes Margaret’s life miserable.  She loses custody of her children, is bounced around and she doesn’t get much support from Kathryn of Aragon who obviously has her own problems or her sister Mary.  There is also a long litany of stillborn children and infant deaths.  It’s all pretty grim in the 1500s trying to conceive, birth and raise a healthy offspring – particularly a Tudor heir.

I don’t have much knowledge of the Kings of Scotland and that part of the story kept me reading.  Unfortunately, the book would have been much better if had been a couple of hundred pages shorter and Margaret wasn’t such an unappealing, spoiled whiner.  Hopefully the subject of Gregory’s next book will be more appealing.

The Premonition by Chris Bohjalian

The Premonition is a short story prequel to Bohjalian’s upcoming book “The Sleepwalker”.  It showed up on one of my many suggested book lists and because the price was right on Amazon, I purchased it.  I enjoy Bohjalian’s books and this one, like so many of his others, is set in Vermont where I have spent a good deal of time and enjoy reading about. I assume the job of “The Premonition” is to engage readers enough so they purchase the Sleepwalker and it did the job for me.  Lianna is a teenager who occasionally gets “premonitions” and has a mother who sleepwalks.  There is enough mystery and intrigue to wet my appetite for the longer novel and I’ll be pre-ordering the Sleepwalker even though the slight tinge of the supernatural has me just a little concerned that the Sleepwalker might be one of Bohjalian’s more “out there” novels.

If you like Bohjalian and are anxiously awaiting his next book, take a look at the Premonition.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

Movies: Lion and Elle

There are a lot of movies with Oscar buzz currently playing in theaters and the holiday period is a great time to catch up on them.  Here are my thoughts on two of these award contenders.

Lion 

You will like this movie.  The acting is great; the cinematography breathtaking; the true-story unbelievably compelling and the haunting musical score compliments every scene.  The movie is essentially comprised of two distinct parts.  The first is the story of a five-year-old Indian boy Saroo played brilliantly by Mumbai native Sunny Pawar.  It is his engaging personality, adorable facial expressions and remarkable acting skills that suck you into the film from the get go.  I’m not sure that without Sunny playing this part, that the audience would be as engaged going into the slower second part of the film which depicts Saroo as an adult.

Saroo is just five when he is separated from his older brother one night and falls asleep on a train that takes him more than 1000 miles from his Indian village.  He becomes a street child in Calcutta, living under intolerable conditions and unable to speak the language or remember the name of his village. Every scene of this young boy being carried away from all that he knows is gut wrenching. Eventually, he is put into an orphanage and ultimately adopted by an Australian couple played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham (Faramir in LOTR). Kidman gives a particularly compelling performance as this story obviously resonated with her real life adoption experience.

The second half of the film focuses on the adult Saroo played very well by Dev Patel.  This part of the movie moves at a much slower pace as Saroo tries to come to terms with his origins. Saroo remembers an amazing amount of detail about his Indian home and when introduced to Google Earth, begins a virtually impossible search for his origins in hopes of finding his mother and brother.  The film doesn’t rely on sentimentality and saves the true emotional moments for the end where you can’t help but be moved by an amazing outcome.

I liked a lot about his film but particularly the relationship Saroo has with his adopted mother and the fact that he doesn’t abandon her for his birth mother in India.  I also appreciate that the Director doesn’t make this a tear jerker from the onset – he could have – and waits for the final moments of the film for us to wipe a few happy tears away.  This movie will particularly tug at the heartstrings of anyone who has ever been a parent and I’m glad that the Director didn’t focus on Saroo’s birth mother’s reaction to losing her five-year-old child which would be a different and devastating story.  As 2016 closes out, it is nice to have an uplifting story and Lion is a movie all should enjoy.

Elle

Elle is one of those movies that you won’t be able to stop discussing long after the credits roll.  It is a psychological thriller that twists and turns and blows up your assumptions as to what is happening throughout the movie.  As a woman, I was particularly conflicted by the rape scenes and the motivations of the victim as the film progressed but it made more sense to me with a surprise ending.  This is not a happy movie so beware.

Michele is a co-owner of a small gaming company when she is sexually assaulted by an intruder in her home as her cat watches.  For some reason, she does not report the crime to the police.  We next see Michele interacting with her young,  predominantly male employees and telling them that a game depicting the rape and brutalization of a woman needs to be more “orgasmic”.  The degree to which Michele enjoys brutal sex becomes grey as are the dysfunctional relationships with all the men in her life as Michele goes about her daily activities seemingly undistracted by what has happened to her. Ultimately it proves to be a “cat and mouse” game of the highest order.

The movie continues with more sex and brutality as we watch Michele interact with her ex-husband, current lover (and best friend’s husband), son and even her rapist.  She is in a car accident and injured but neither calls the police or goes to a hospital which explains a lot about her and her feelings toward authority.  I’m never happy when rape is used as a plot device and this movie will make you squirm and feel uncomfortable.  It is not a film to enjoy but it is a movie to watch Isabelle Huppert as Michele command the screen from beginning to end as Michele.  She is magnificent as the standoffish woman who the camera never leaves for entire 2 hours and 20 minutes length of the film.  I have never seen Huppert act but wow, she was utterly amazing in this movie.

The end of the film was a surprise to me (maybe not to others) and explains a lot about her motivations but the entirety of this film experience will leave you exhausted.  Elle is a tough movie to watch but seeing Huppert’s performance made it worthwhile for me.  Elle didn’t make the last Oscar cut for best foreign film but hopefully Huppert will be nominated.   Both have been nominated for awards this season by other organizations.

 

 

 

Movies: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story

Star Wars: Rogue One is a pretty straight forward war movie.  Not the best or the worst of the franchise, it will certainly satisfy Star War fans and probably be passed over by those who aren’t.  This movie is a one-off prequel to the first movie (Episode IV) and answers the question as to why a weapon as powerful as the Death Star has a fatal flaw deep within its structure.  It covers the period of the building of the Death Star and the method by which the Alliance gets its hands on the death star blueprints up to the time “A New Hope” kicks in.

We begin the story with the Empire locating Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen who was so great in Hannibal), the brilliant scientist who created the Death Star.  Galen is hiding out with his wife and young daughter on what appears to be a remote moon.  He had apparently escaped the Empire after creating the Death Star but is required back by the immensely evil Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn  – the best part of the TV show Bloodline) who takes him back, kills his wife and tries unsuccessfully find his daughter Jyn.  Jyn is rescued by a Rebel Fighter Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) and grows up to be somewhat of a sketchy low level criminal played by Felicity Jones.  She is recruited by the Alliance to find Gerrera who has come upon a pilot (Rez Ahmed who was amazing in the “Night of”) searching for Saw with a message from Galen after having defected from the Empire.

Long story short, Jyn leads a band of rebels to steal the Death Star Plans and multiple battles ensure.  We see several key players from Episode IV through the marvels of technology which I won’t spoil but adds to the fun.  One nice thing about this film is that there is closure.  The fate of each of the characters is known by the end of this stand-alone movie, we know how the Death Star plans were stolen and why it is vulnerable.

Rogue One is a B movie.  The acting is fine (except the seemingly miscast male lead played by Diego Luna) although there isn’t much call for excellence in the action-packed sequences.  The first hour of this overly long 2 hr. 15-minute film is a bit all over the place but the second hour settles in with better focus and battles.  The musical score by Michael Giacchino is great with the appropriate tribute paid to John William’s original score.  The screenplay and dialogue are ok but nothing to write home about.  Star War fans will absolutely enjoy this film but if Star Wars and/or Sy Fy aren’t your thing, there is nothing truly compelling in this film that would make you want to buy a ticket.

 

 

 

 

 

TV: Year End Thoughts as well as the Westworld and Rectify Finales.

 

I have been a little remiss as of late in reporting on TV but with the fall TV shows either ending or going on winter breaks there hasn’t been much to discuss. That being said, there are a there are a few that must be covered!

Season Finale: Westworld (HBO)

I spent a lot of time on Westworld. In addition to the show each week, I followed up with at least one long recap and two podcasts discussing what had happened. This is not the first time I have utilized social media to enhance my experience with a show. I first did it with Lost and loved every minute of every podcast, blog and recap that I delved into each week, along with so many other viewers, trying to unlock the many mysteries of the that show. To this day, watching Lost in this manner was the best TV experience I have ever had and it changed the way so many of us now experience this medium.

With Westworld, these extra efforts just seemed like work. I can’t completely put my finger on why this show isn’t that enjoyable for me but at least part of it is that I’m really not invested in the characters so no matter how many mysteries there are to solve, I’m not truly engaged. There are aspects of Westworld that I like. The acting is quite good – specifically Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris and in his villain role, Anthony Hopkins is perfect. The problem is that acting alone can’t sustain a show. I’m not sure whether it is the fact that the show is about robots and it’s hard to empathize with AI characters or the show just never recovered completely from its troubled production history. Maybe it is a combination of both but the end result is that there are just too many inconsistencies in the plot line creating  too much confusion.

I’m not saying that I dislike this show. There were always enough interesting elements to keep me going but it isn’t a Sunday show that I looked forward to all week like Game of Thrones. I hold out hope that it will become that show for me because there are some positive signs. One reason that I am optimistic is that last year they halted production for 6 months or so in order for the show writers, producers etc. to figure out exactly where they were going both in Season 1 and the overall story arc. They are now taking over a year between seasons to better flush out Season 2. I think there is a real commitment by the industry heavyweights involved to make this show great and I think it could be. So for now, I’m willing to keep working hard to appreciate the show in hopes that it will become my Sunday night “go to”.

Series Finale Rectify (Sundance)

I consider Rectify not only one of my top one or two shows for the past 4 years but certainly one of the best shows of this century. While only a handful of people watched it, it will stand the test of time and hopefully many more people will discover this gem along the way. Rectify concluded it’s fourth and final season last week with a finale that I savored for each one of its 107 minutes. It is rare to find a show where the characters are so deep and complex, the casting for each individual so perfect and the acting so emotionally impactful as this one.

If you haven’t seen Rectify, the first three seasons are on Netflix and I’m sure the fourth season will be soon. My guess is that if you watch the first three seasons you won’t be able to wait for that to happen and will buy it on ITunes or Amazon – it is that good. Rectify is the story of Daniel Holden (played absolutely brilliantly by Aden Young) who at age 18 is convicted of the rape and murder of his high school girl friend. After spending 18 years on death row, he is released based on DNA evidence. The resulting struggle of trying to reintegrate into his family and society at large is the main plot of the series.

Whether Daniel is guilty or not of the murder is never really central to the plot. Instead we focus on his relationship with each member of his family and their struggle to incorporate this very damaged individual back into their lives. The final season does provide some closure as to Daniel’s guilt/innocence as well as the reasons for his difficulty in being able to function in the outside world. All of this is laid out slowly and deliberately throughout the 8-episode season culminating in one of the most satisfying series finales that I have ever seen.

There is a hole in my heart now that this show is finished and it is going to be hard to find a replacement that will be as fulfilling. I’m going to desperately miss the Holden clan and hope beyond hope that there will be a reunion some years in the future.

Season Premier: Man in the High Castle (Amazon)

I was going to report out on Man in the High Castle Season 2, which dropped on Amazon this past Friday. I watched the first episode and was totally confused as I remembered so little from the first season. I have concluded that I need to go back and watch the first season again, which will definitely delay my viewing and reporting out on the new season. I enjoyed the first season although it did drag a bit in the middle so I’m anxious to see if it moves along more consistently in Season 2. More to come on this show. 

Best TV of 2016

With 2016 closing down fast and publications/critics everywhere doing their top 10, 20 or 30 lists, I wanted to just put a few thoughts down regarding what for me were the best shows of the year. In the world of peak TV, there is obviously more good TV out there than any one person can possibly watch. I do my best to see a lot of TV (as proved by my Cable, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu bills) but in a world of over 400 hour-long dramas alone, it is impossible to see everything good! One hour scripted (rather than procedural) dramas are my specialty but as you may have noticed, 30 minute “dramadies” have come on strong with me this year and I’m finding some of the best work in television is being done on these shows. So here, in no particular order are the shows that I think stand above all others this year and you shouldn’t miss as well as some that I think did a great job this year and I never miss:

Must Watch for Everyone:

The Americans (FX)

Rectify (Sundance)

One Mississippi (Amazon)

Jane the Virgin (CW)

OJ Made in American (ESPN documentary)

Catastrophe (Amazon)

The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)

The Crown (Netflix)

Must Watch for Me and You Might like Some of Them:

This Week with John Oliver (HBO)

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

Transparent (Amazon)

Game of Thrones (HBO)

Better Things (FX)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

So 2016 TV has basically closed down and 2017 TV will begin soon and the new show I’m most excited about is the HBO miniseries “The Young Pope” starring Jude Law. Bring it on!

 

 

Movies: Manchester by the Sea, Arrival and Jackie

 

Manchester By the Sea

Manchester by the Sea is a great movie – so far, it is my Oscar pick for best picture. There is no doubt in my mind that it deserves of the 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes as well as the recent award wins and nominations. That being said, it is a very bleak movie so be prepared. Many of the accolades are going Casey Affleck’s way who is riveting as Lee Chandler. I have always thought the younger Affleck is a good actor but he rises to a completely different level in this film as a broken man who can’t be fixed.

Affleck plays Len Chandler, a janitor toiling away in Quincy Massachusetts when he gets a call that his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has collapsed. He drives to his hometown; Manchester by the Sea, only to find his brother has died of congestive heart failure leaving a sixteen-year-old son behind. Lee has always been close to his nephew Patrick (played to perfection by Lucas Hedges) who he then has to track down and tell him of his father’s death. Unbeknownst to Lee, Joe has made him guardian for Patrick and trustee of his will. Joe wanted him to move back to Manchester to care for his nephew.

Lee can’t bring himself to take on this responsibility and we find out why during numerous flashbacks.   His life contains an unimaginable tragedy that has destroyed him and as the movie unfolds, we see just how damaged he is. Thankfully, the director has interspersed a number of comedic moments throughout the film to break up the bleakness. Specifically, many of the interactions between Lee and Patrick contain a sarcastic line or two that are quite funny. It is a testament to Casey Affleck’s performance that even while playing a truly broken individual who spends all his time attempting to keep his emotions bottled up that he can still deadpan these lines without breaking character.

Manchester By the Sea is another great film about the Boston area written/produced/directed and/or acted by an Affleck or a Damon including Good Will Hunting, the Departed, the Town and Gone Baby Gone. Growing up in Boston has provided Damon and the Affleck brothers a wealth of material and they have hit home runs with them all.

Arrival

I like Sy Fy but sometimes have trouble with time travel – and that is when time is linear. Arrival explores the concept of non-linear time travel and it was a bit confusing for me. While I still have a few questions, I enjoyed this Alien drama that explores additional themes of life, death, fate and choices. The Director, as he did in Scario, keeps things moving quickly with plenty of suspense.

Amy Adams gives an Oscar worthy performance as Dr. Louise Banks, an academic linguist who is called upon to try and interpret what some Aliens who have parked themselves above 12 locations throughout the world are saying. As the movie unfolds, we see her character pursuing what will arguably be the most important thing she does in her life. Amy lives by herself in a house on the water and from the beginning, the viewer senses in her a pervasive sadness. Through flashbacks, we see that she was a single parent of a daughter who dies of cancer as a teenager but there is much more to the story.

Jeremy Renner is as likeable as he ever has been in a film as a scientist who works closely with Adams trying to decipher the reason(s) for the Alien visit. I’ll leave it at that, as the character is part of a twist that occurs well in to the film. Forrest Whitaker is his usual great self as the Army Colonel in charge of the operation at the US site where the Aliens have landed. The special effects are also very good – even the Aliens who turn out to be Heptapods.

Arrival will appeal to Sy Fy buffs but those who don’t care for the genre may want to skip it as good as it is. The whole time space continuum thing can be very confusing to the non-science types.

Jackie

Jackie is a film that is very hard to get my arms around. On one hand, Natalie Portman is really extraordinary as Jackie Kennedy in this film that covers the assassination and the week thereafter. She is on screen every one of the 99 minutes of the film and often times, we only see facial expressions displaying her emotions. Her accent and voice intonations are spot on and I can’t imagine any best actress candidate having a more difficult role this year.  She is going to be a force to be reckoned with at the Oscars.

That being said, I didn’t love the film. I’m not really sure why other than, the depiction of Jackie here doesn’t match the portrait of the woman I have in my mind. I’m not sure whether either one of these are actually accurate as Jackie was an extraordinarily private person and I’m not sure anyone but her closest family and friends could shed light on her true nature and I doubt whether they ever will. Thus, it is left to our imagination as to what she was really like and the Director of this film has taken liberties given Jackie’s private nature.

Jackie in the week after the assassination was obviously ripped apart by grief, deeply concerned about the welfare of her fatherless children and, if you are to believe the film, very focused on the legacy of her husband. These conflicting emotions create a somewhat fickled, sometimes-abrasive film persona. The movie flashes between an interview she had in real life with Theodore White a week after Kennedy’s death in which she exercises complete control over what he is going to write and the events in Dallas and it’s aftermath. The only thing I was sure of at the end of the film was Jackie’s role in ensuring the Kennedy presidency was viewed in the minds of most Americans as “Camelot”.

In addition to being confused as to what Jackie’s real personality and motives were at this time, I also had mixed reactions to the score, which heavily relied on strings with occasional woodwinds, interspersed. At times it seemed brilliant but at others, very heavy handed to the point of being distracting. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that if one is telling oneself in the middle of a movie “Enough with the cello’s!” then there probably is an issue. There is no doubt, however, that the music captured the tone and spirit of the movie.

I think it is worthwhile to see Portman’s performance in this film but I’m just not that enthusiastic about the movie as the critics are. I didn’t dislike it by any means but at a time when you can see Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, La La Land and some other presumably great films opening in the next few weeks, you might want to wait for the DVD.