Modern mythology gets the full treatment in this long-winded and maudlin rendering of the life of cultural icon Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Although the slick CBS mini features a decent cast, this latest tale of life in and beyond Camelot is proof that Hollywood is running out of actors to play the Kennedys and Bouviers. Apparently the requirements have been whittled down to include brunets — no New England accent necessary.
Based on the bestselling biography by Donald Spoto, “Jackie” could actually benefit from the hype surrounding a new bio by Sarah Bradford. Although considered incisive when it was published after Jackie’s death in 1994, Spoto’s relatively tame account may pale in comparison to the juicy gossip of Bradford’s “America’s Queen.” Without any new revelations, “Jackie” comes off as an impassionate and plodding re-creation of well-known facts and events, offering little insight into the real motivations and emotions of Jackie O.
Told in flashbacks as Jackie reflects on her life, mini is divided in two parts: Life as a Kennedy and life after Camelot. Part one reflects on the early years and the influence her father Jack (Fred Ward) had on her life. By no coincidence are comparisons made between Jackie’s tolerance of her father’s indiscretions and those of her young husband.
Part two covers the salad days in the White House and the public’s burgeoning fascination with Jackie followed by a succession of tragedies and scandals that only served to fuel the public’s interest.
Joanne Whalley does her best to mirror the gracefulness and stoicism of Jackie, and even though her performance is at times appropriately soulful and regal, she lacks the charisma that was a major part of Jackie’s appeal. Other perfs reek of sweeps stunt casting with Frances Fisher as Janet Bouvier Auchincloss. once again playing a status conscience shrew of a mother and Fred Ward as the philandering drunkard Jack Bouvier. Andrew McCarthy offers a heartfelt portrait of Bobby Kennedy, while Tim Matheson could be playing just about any stereotypical politician except for JFK.
Tom Skerritt (as patriarch Joe Kennedy), Matheson and McCarthy are all fine actors, but the numerous Hollywood renditions of the Kennedy clan seem to have evaporated the very essence of these characters.
To compensate, director David Barton Morris generates most of the atmosphere not from his actors but through reminiscences in the form of long montages of mock home movies and newsreels.
The rough cut reviewed included temporary music and effects although other technical credits warrant praise. Editors Scott Conrad and Paul Trejo carefully splice historical clips with authentic-looking re-creations thanks to some nifty lensing by Paul Elliott. Much is made of Jackie’s impeccable taste and costumes by Carol Ramsey and production design by Barbara Dunphy certainly reflect that notion.