Do you, like Ariana Grande, feel like licking a donut and proclaiming that you hate America right now? Do you, like 48.2 percent of voters, believe that Hillary Clinton ought to have been elected president? Do you, like me, think that maybe Natalie Portman should’ve won an Oscar for a movie other than Black Swan (thereby freeing up that year’s Oscar for Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right)? Perfect. Have you heard of Jackie, Pablo Larraín’s moody horror biopic about the First Lady in the wake of her husband’s assassination?
This is the movie you should watch to “celebrate” America on this day: a weary, mournful film about how terrible everything is. It’s the movie for the Fourth of July, yes, but also the movie for every news cycle under the Trump administration.
Here are the things Jackie has that every other movie you’d probably watch on the Fourth of July doesn’t have:
1. Natalie Portman.
2. Lots of crying scenes.
3. A sense of crushing hopelessness and desperation that America is a series of bogus performances of “civility” and grace, the perfect setting for a deeply affecting horror movie.
4. A series of soft, hauntingly filmed scenes communicating deep and unpatriotic depression.
At some point during the filming of every scene in Jackie, Natalie Portman apparently whispered “I love beauty.” That’s because Jackie Kennedy was a supreme aesthete in the face of America’s unconscionable ugliness: America’s deranged political system crowned her family, then robbed her of her husband. Jackie does not celebrate patriotism or American ideas or convictions. It reveals that America’s greatest legacy — other than robbing indigenous people and people of color — is this country’s ability to scam. “Camelot” was the product of Jackie Kennedy’s Kris Jenner–level media training. She was obsessed with perception and imagery, and used it to her advantage when piecing together a legacy for her dead husband. Jackie is a movie about being deeply uncomfortable with and disappointed in one’s national heritage.
Key to Jackie’s deep existential ennui are the many scenes of Natalie Portman sobbing. I’m a sucker for Natalie Portman’s tears in any movie, but especially in Jackie. She cries loudly and quietly, with deep aching — kind of like how we should all feel about the human-rights crises at the border, or the Supreme Court, or about another day of wondering where the hell Barack Obama is. She walks barefoot in the rain, through a graveyard, flanked by male aides who see her as some sort of moody, emo freak show. (Can relate!)
Finally, because this is a very special Fourth of July recommendation, it’s important to note that Jackie also features plenty of drinking. Instead of PBR in American flag koozies, Jackie drinks wine and liquor and gets drunk and walks around the White House. It’s a truly captivating scene, watching her play dress-up with the gowns and jewels that were once so important to her. Instead of preparing for a state dinner, she’s gliding around her bedroom and bathroom like a specter, haunting the space’s one-happy memories. Jackie uses horror movie elements and a weighty, looming score to reckon with grief and mourning, as the First Lady shapes a new narrative in her husband’s memory. She Really Does Care. Do U?
Jackie also features other things that make America complicated (organized religion), sometimes nice (Greta Gerwig), but generally a very bad and confusing place to exist (Peter Sarsgaard doing Bobby Kennedy’s Boston accent). Jackie is available to stream on Cinemax. Enjoy your Fourth of July responsibly!