Jackie: Film Review
Cast: Natalie Portman, Billy Crudup, Greta Gerwig, Peter Sarsgaard, John Hurt, Richard E Grant
Director: Pablo Larrain
Natalie Portman shines as Jackie Kennedy in this intriguing and at times, unconventional, biopic about the President's wife after the death of her husband JFK.
In an unusual move, it feels at times like a coming of age film as Jackie negotiates the treachery of life afterwards as people swarm around her suggesting what's best for both her and her husband's immediate legacy.
The film though, begins with Jackie welcoming a reporter (Billy Crudup, based on biographer Theodore H White) to her retreat and who's clearly there to get her side of the story (in perhaps a nod to the article which appeared a week after JFK's death in Life).
But flashbacks, and present day flashes mean that Jackie's also shown gaining her White House legs as well as her exposure to television by bringing cameras into the White House to demonstrate how their home is. In a move that simulates both the desire to be accepted by the public and into the history of the White House, Portman's Jackie tentatively begins a journey into our collective consciousness.
Mixing archival footage along with Portman's powerful vocal affectations (which, admittedly, take time to get accustomed to) as Kennedy proves to be a heady mix for Jackie. With its drained aesthetics and faded looks, Larrain's strength in the film comes from the subtleties of the scenes and the rhythmic feel of the prose played out on the screen.
From blood stains on Jackie's dress to the absolutely earth-shattering visceral sound of the bullet ringing out across the motorcade when the inevitable flashback occurs, everything about this film screams detail.
It's undoubtedly a classy affair, albeit one which takes a little time to adjust to as its groove begins to wash over you with its funereal feel.
As the ebbs and flows of post JFK life come into sharp focus, the initial portrait of a fragile and vulnerable First Lady drains away to present a figure borne of fire, and bereft initially of power but content once again to rise from the ashes.
Portman commits to this wholeheartedly as a mother struggling to tell her kids what's happened, as a stateswoman determined to not be undermined and as a newly crowned widow, fighting to ensure her husband is fairly farewelled (NB - a lot of time is spent on funeral arrangements).
But as she staggers out into the cinematic light and from the screen, Portman emerges as the character building her own myth; it's clear to see why she's been nominated for an award in this almost chameleonic turn.
While there are moments when it feels showy initially, once the bluster is stripped away, the ebbs and flows of the character portrayal are laid down and the bombastic OST silences itself, Jackie becomes a clear portrait of power, led by an utterly commanding turn.
Chilean director Pablo Larrain's film frees itself from the shackles of a conventional biopic and emerges as a hauntingly different and striking way to tell a story that's so familiar to so many. And with a central powerhouse of a performance, it lingers long in the mind after the lights have gone up.