Jackie star Natalie Portman hopes for a future first spouse

Natalie Portman attending the premiere of Jackie during the American Film Institute Festival in Hollywood, California, last month.
Natalie Portman attending the premiere of Jackie during the American Film Institute Festival in Hollywood, California, last month.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • Though America's fascination with first ladies plays out on Instagram comments and Pinterest boards, it is anything but of-the-moment - and Washington got a reminder of the long-standing nature of the obsession with a screening of Jackie, the Oscar- buzzed-about movie starring Natalie Portman in the titular role, last Thursday night.

Before the movie rolled, with an audience that included members of Congress, media types and assorted VIPs, Portman and the movie's creators took to the red carpet, like a panel of cable commentators, to hold forth on the role of first lady.

Portman, whose portrayal of the glamorous wife of John F. Kennedy is drawing raves, noted that her character helped create today's expectations for the gig.

"Jackie was one of the first, along with Eleanor Roosevelt, to have a real agenda," Portman said, referring to Jackie Kennedy's work on historical preservation and the arts. "Since then, first ladies, and hopefully in the future, first spouses, will be this sort of extra gift that the country gets when they get their president - it's not an elected person, it's not an official role... but they're still helping our country become a better place."

Director Pablo Lorrain saw in Kennedy a shrewdness that would behoove any wife of a modern-day president.

"She had a political sense that, believe me, the political leaders of this world would love to have one-third of that," he said.

So what message can today's audience glean from the on-screen depiction of Jackie Kennedy's excruciating hours and days following Kennedy's assassination?

"It sends a message that the way our public officials and their families conduct themselves really matters," says writer Noah Oppenheim, who clearly thinks that is no small thing.

Jackie, he said, "belongs in the pantheon of American heroes for the way she conducted herself".

Though they were located somewhere between the Capitol Dome and the White House (and a stone's throw from the Trump hotel), the movie folks steered clear of dishing directly on contemporary politics. Portman had campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and during the campaign called a potential Donald Trump presidency "catastrophic".

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2016, with the headline 'Jackie star Natalie Portman hopes for a future first spouse'. Print Edition | Subscribe