Jackie is an excellent read and little wonder it made the 2010 Black List. It’s the type of biopic often referred to as a ‘snapshot,’ that is in contrast to the traditional biopic, which can stretch over the length of a central character’s entire lifetime, Jackie covers the week following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a period of time covering the immediate aftermath of his shooting, the funeral procession, the funeral itself, and Jackie Kennedy preparing herself to move on with her life and move out of the White House.
For those who claim flashbacks are an example of weak writing, which I happen to believe is nonsense, this script will prove problematic. By my count nearly 20 flashbacks and even flashbacks within flashbacks. I think they are handled really well.
First, they are personal, grounded in the experience of a grieving widow who would naturally be contemplating the horrific events of her husband’s death and key moments in her married life.
Second, the transitions in and out of the flashbacks are skillfully done, often using the reporter to push into or pull out of past events.
But the main thing is each flashback tells a mini-story, a tiny slice of Jackie’s personal experience in the past and in adding them all up, they contribute to our understanding of her mindset in the present, why she does what she does, her insistence on certain things to happen, and a direct line into her inner life.
You read a script like this and it really drives home why ‘snapshot’ biopics are more popular nowadays than traditional cradle to grave stories. From a writing standpoint, much easier to sustain pace and not have to deal with all those pesky time jumps forward and reset the story particulars.
But mostly ‘snapshot’ biopics offer a specific condensed lens through which the reader is able to interpret the central character’s life. We don’t NEED to cover decade upon decade, especially for a well-known figure. Pull us into a seminal moment in the character’s life — like The Imitation Game and Lincoln — then tell that focused compressed story.