In a brief 4.14 item about that Jackie Kennedy project that Darren Aronofsky wants to direct with Rachel Weisz playing the former First Lady, I said “it doesn’t seem like Aronofsky-type material.” I was sharply disagreed with by a couple of HE readers. Anyway, last night I received a PDF of Noah Oppenheim‘s script (dated 2.12.10), and I’ve now finished reading it. And I’m right.
Jackie does indeed follow the former Mrs. Kennedy’s experience from the day of JFK’s assassination in Dallas on 11.22.63 to his burial in Arlington Cemetery four days hence. I’ve read enough about those four dark days to understand that Oppenheim’s script is basically a tasteful re-capturing of what happened, and that’s all. It’s an elegant, almost under-written thing — straight, clean, dignified. The dialogue seems genuine — trustable — in that it’s not hard to believe that Jackie or Bobby Kennedy or Larry O’Brien or Theodore H. White or Jack Valenti might have said these very lines in actuality.
The portrait that emerges isn’t what anyone would call judgmental or intrusive, or even exploratory. Jackie Kennedy is depicted as pretty much the same, reserved, quietly classy woman of legend, determined to honor her husband’s memory by making decisions about aspects of his state funeral in her own way, according to what she feels he would have wanted, or what would be appropriately dignified.
It’s a very decent script but my first instinct was right — it doesn’t have Aronofsky’s stamp at all. This is strictly an acting project for Rachel Weisz, which is fine. I’d be interested in seeing the film when it’s done, no question, but there isn’t so much as a hint of the feverish grit or edge associated with the Aronofsky brand (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream, Pi, The Fountain).
I don’t mean to sound like a smart-ass, but it’s more or less in the same wheelhouse as Roger Donaldson‘s Thirteen Days, the drama about the Cuban Missile Crisis. I had a feeling that while writing this Oppenheim was mindful of the screenplay style of Aaron Sorkin, and how the latter has almost authored a “how to” manual about writing emotionally reserved but affecting stories about people who live and work in the White House. The difference is that this time they’re well-known figures and the dialogue is based on historical accounts.
When I said this seemed far afield from Aronofsky’s natural turf, Deathtongue Groupie registered an opposite reaction, equating it to Requiem For Dream‘s story about “four people who live in a bubble of their own reality until it bursts and either crushes the spirit out of them or kills them outright,” etc. And Brandon Boudreaux said it sounded “exactly like Aronofsky material to me…a combination of The Wrestler‘s intimacy with Requiem for a Dream‘s psychological tautness. I don’t see this as being anything close to ‘let’s re-tell history again’ type of thing.”
Trust me, that’s almost exactly what Jackie is — familiar history re-lived and re-told with a veneer of class