Screenwriter Noah Oppenheim makes several key choices in how to tell this story and in some ways, the structure reminds me of how Aaron Sorkin handled The Social Network.

Both scripts use a framing device in the present to bounce back and forth to the past: In TSN, it’s two deposition hearings. In Jackie, it’s the interview with the journalist. The value of doing that is at least two-fold: (1) The aforementioned narrative device to shape narrative content to allow seamless transitions between present and past, past and present. (2) Both the depositions and Journalist interview allow the screenwriter to pose questions to the Protagonist, thus creating a natural context for the character to do dialogue which provides insight into the character’s inner state.

There’s one more benefit I just thought of: It allows the screenwriter to trim the fat, drop in and out of scenes, past or present, only hitting the highlights. Don’t need the interstitial scenes, let the audience piece together what happened off-screen, stay focused on the good, meaty narrative content.

Some major plot points:

  • Opening (1–4): Establishes the present after the assassination.
  • Act One Midpoint (11–15): The assassination.
  • Act One End (24–27): Jackie finally breaks down and weeps after her husband’s death.
  • Deconstruction (40–44): In denial about having to leave the White House (Past), in denial as she drinks and smokes (Present).
  • Transition (51–55): Funeral plans and Oswald assassinated (Past).
  • Reconstruction (65–70): She overrides officials, insisting she will walk along her husband’s casket in the funeral procession.
  • Act Two End (71–75): Funeral procession, recalls holding her husband’s wounded head, wishing she had died.
  • Final Struggle (79–83): Jackie talking with the Priest.
  • Denouement (83–84): A flashback of Jackie dancing with JFK to the strains of “Camelot”.

There is the Physical Journey in the present of Jackie preparing to, then moving out of the White House, but there’s also the Psychological Journey of her coping with survivor’s guilt and wishing she had died. More on that in our discussion Thursday on Themes.

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