“Jackie” is directed by Pablo Larraín and stars Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup. The film is about how Jackie Kennedy coped with the emotional and political struggle in the days following the assassination of her husband, John F. Kennedy.
This is a film I was very eager to see as there was a lot of buzz around it, specifically surrounding Natalie Portman’s portrayal of the title character. Personally, I was excited only for the performance, but also because the trailers were gorgeously shot and looked very unique.
Natalie Portman has absolutely earned the praise she has been receiving, as this is a truly outstanding performance from her as Jackie Kennedy. Portman completely transforms into this character, and with her mannerisms, her voice, and the way she held her own, Portman made the whole film feel like a real life account of the days after this tragic event. Portman shines in each and every scene, and she should be considered a lock for nominations come Oscar time.
The supporting cast was also great, with Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy really impressing in his role. Sarsgaard shows more of a different take on how to deal with the passing of a loved one, and I thought he did a great job with his back and forths involving Portman, while always feeling incredibly genuine. Greta Gerwig has some really great scenes with Portman, as does Billy Crudup as the journalist interviewing Jackie Kennedy in the days after. I also have to give credit to Caspar Phillipson for his rendition of the 35th President, as he looks exactly like Mr. Kennedy and even though he wasn’t in the film all that often, when he was it was always a very powerful moment.
This film is also gorgeous, with the cinematography by Stéphane Fontaine and the score by Mica Levi both working beautifully together to add to the aesthetic of the film. The way the movie is shot makes it feel as if it takes place in 1963, and the classical music that is booming in some scenes, as well as being subdued in others really fills scenes with power and emotion. Most of the score really works effectively with Portman, as her facial expressions mix with the sonic aspects and really add a feel of heartbreak and depression to the movie as a whole.
Pablo Larraín does a fantastic job at mixing the various elements of Jackie Kennedy in a bold, unique way, and he did so by respecting history and by creating intrigue. Larraín performs the pivotal assassination scene excellently, but he also never takes the focus away from Portman, which makes the movie even more powerful. By making a character piece that only focuses on the most emotional week of her life, we get an insight into Jackie Kennedy that many films could never do, while also bringing in some incredibly important moments that all were affected by the titular lady herself. In the hands of an incapable director, the many bits and pieces used in “Jackie” could have fallen apart, but Larraín and Portman mesh beautifully to make an immensely powerful experience filled with loads of passion.
For as much emotion as there was in this movie, I can’t say the film hit me as hard as I wanted it to. There are some scenes that will certainly stick with me, especially a shower scene involving Portman as well as the shooting itself, but for the most part, I wanted the tears to come and they never fully did. This may be in part to the constant shift in events that Larraín decides to implement, which makes for a more unique, but slightly less impactful storyline.
The moments with the priest, played by John Hurt, sometimes did have a substantial impact, but it felt like a way to bring Jackie Kennedy’s emotions to the limelight instead of being true to the story, which is indeed what it was. There never was a priest in the true story, though I get why he exists for this movie, but I just felt there was a smoother way to bring out the inner thoughts of Jackie than to make up this character.
“Jackie” is a brutal, dark, and beautifully created film that features a world-class performance by Natalie Portman, as well as excellent direction by Pablo Larraín. The visuals and score just add to the experience, as this movie does an incredible job at showing the many facets of one of the most famous first ladies of all-time, and all while never painting anyone as a true hero or villain. “Jackie” is the last film I’ll be seeing in 2016, and I’m glad this year gets to go out with a bang.
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