STARRING: NATALIE PORTMAN; PETER SARSGARRD; GRETA GERWIG; BILLY CRUDUP
DIRECTED BY: PABLO LARRAIN
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
Jackie is not your typical biopic because it does not tell you a story, as much as it asks you to feel the emotions of its subject. Jacqueline Kennedy was the wife of President John F. Kennedy, which seemed to make it hard for people to remember that she was, above all other things, a human being. What director Pablo Larrain has done in his newest film (amazingly, his third in one year) is allow for the audience to truly understand that Jackie was flesh and blood. She was not a symbol. She was not an answer to our problems. She was someone who sat in the back seat of a car and witnessed the man she loved have his head blown off. It's a horrific thought, but Jackie is a film that puts the audience right next to her and allows us to briefly grasp those feelings.
Natalie Portman stars, in what is her defining performance as Kennedy. Much more so, than Black Swan, simply for the degree of difficulty it takes to embody such a well known figure. She is never out of frame, as the film takes place the morning of, during the presidents assassination, and the days that followed, including her interview in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts with LIFE Magazine writer Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup). The interview scenes reveal a behind the scenes and impeccable portrayal of her grieving process. Along with that, we also see conversations that took place between the first lady and Robert Kennedy (Peter Sarsgarrd) along with her knowledge of how important JFK's legacy would mean to her and the United States.
There are four people who deserve praise for the work on Jackie. The screenplay from Noah Oppenheim is more of an artistic take on telling Kennedy's story, a fantastic attempt to penetrate the mind. The direction from Larrain is reminiscent of recent films from Terrence Malick, along with the cinematography from Stephane Fontaine, they deliver a hand and hand-held effort of constructing the narrative. The camera is often in a closeup, either on her face or behind her head, making sure to capture the blood on her famous pink gown that she wore on that fateful day. Past footage of Kennedy's televised tour of the white house is also spliced together with recreated footage to combine the past with the performance, which immediately transcends the audience to that time. Then there is the acting, which will undoubtedly earn awards recognition, as Portman uses her eyes and a precise breathy voice to precisely portray the icon.
“Do you know who William McKinnley is?” she ask's a nurse in the car transporting her husbands body, well aware that JFK had just become one of the few presidents that had been killed in office. It's the legacy of the Kennedy's that drove them. The conversations between Crudup's character may be a bit too much bouncing around for some, but these behind the scenes moments reveal a glimpse of freedom for this women. The in-public scenes after the assassination, place her in the center of the room, with others looking in shock, including assistant Nancy Tuckerman, (Greta Gerwig with a subtle, but great performance), and Lyndon (John Carroll Lynch) and Lady Bird Johnson (Beth Grant), who were thrust into the presidency, but measuring the drapes before her husbands body was in the ground.
What Jackie is able to convey is a mixture of art and history. It's worthy of praise for delivering a daring analysis of someone whose life has already been under the microscope. There are very little scenes with JFK (Caspar Phillipson) as he hovers over like a cloud. Pablo Larrain has delivered one of best directed films of the year, with an inside look to the psyche of this woman, whose life would always be judged by others, no matter what she said. What she did control was the legacy of her husbands life. Natalie Portman delivers a towering performance, in what is one of the best movies of 2016, and the legacy of Jackie will continue grow, glamorous as ever.
Written by: Leo Brady