- on Friday, 02 December 2016 14:00
- by Frank Wilkins
The larger-than-life legacy of Jacqueline Kennedy, America’s favorite First Lady, gets another run through the Hollywood ringer, this time portrayed by Natalie Portman who disappears into her double-breasted pink Chanel suit in Pablo Larraín's Jackie, a brutally honest historical epic with humanity at its core.
Jackie isn’t a conventional biopic. It doesn’t attempt to lay out a moment-by-moment or event-by-event telling of the Kennedy presidency. And while the actual assassination is portrayed in brutally graphic fashion, it isn’t about JFK’s assassination. It has much deeper intentions than that. Jackie focuses on the days immediately following the president’s assassination in 1963, when the First Lady became the closest thing to royalty America has ever had. Though it has the look and feel of Oscar bait – and would certainly not scoff at the prestigious recognition, the film manages to rise above that with numerous memorable performances, an outstanding score, and costume and set design sure to knock your socks off. It’s as beautiful as it is sorrowful, and as reassuring as it is disheartening.
Noah Oppenheim’s story unfolds via a framing device that features Jackie telling her side of the story to a Life Magazine journalist (Billy Crudup) about what was going through her mind at the time. During the in-between bits, she is surrounded by those closest to her, Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard), Social secretary Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) a Catholic priest (John Hurt), and Kennedy confidant Bill Walton (Richard E. Grant). But she’s mostly alone and hurting. Portman is in almost every shot of the movie, and there’s no hiding from Larraín’s camera that is rarely more than a few inches away from her face. We become mesmerized by the depiction of a pained wife and mother as she is forced to gracefully transition from holding her husband’s brains, to telling her young children that their father won’t be coming home, to witnessing LBJ’s swearing in, to planning the elaborate funeral that will set forth the Kennedy presidential legacy… all in the matter of a few days.
Jackie does a terrific job of recreating the historical details we’ve come to know via newspaper clippings, newsreel footage, and the like. Events such as Jackie’s filmed tour of the White House renovations, LBJ’s swearing in aboard Air Force One, and of course, the shooting itself are etched into every American’s consciousness, no matter the age. But scenes of Jackie picking out her husband’s burial site in the rain, and of her scrubbing the blood stains from her dress are especially haunting. Scenes of a lonely Jackie floating through the halls of the White House living quarters while thoughts of not knowing where she’ll go and who she’ll be with run through her head are truly heartbreaking. She catches the occasional glimpse of LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson (Beth Grant) readying the facility for the transition. She knows life must carry on. But how can she?
Though Portman, as Jackie, is often best when she allows her facial expressions and spot-on mannerisms to do the talking, her portrayal really comes to life when she speaks in Jackie’s signature mid-Atlantic whispery accent that was only spoken by Americans who were specifically educated to speak it. It reeks of wealth and royalty and it makes her better than you. Though it’s certainly an acquired taste, and some may find it grating upon initial examination, it does admittedly take some getting used to. A quick scan through archival audio recordings proves Portman absolutely nails it. She looks the part and speaks the part. But most importantly she feels the part. And as a result, we’re left with a soul-searing, warts-and-all look at the remnants of one of America’s darkest hours. A look we had never before seen.
MPAA Rating: R for brief strong violence and some language.
Runtime: 99 mins
Director: Pablo Larraín
Writer: Noah Oppenheim
Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig
Genre: Drama | Biopic
Tagline: I want them to see what they have done to Jack.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Don't let it be forgot, that for one brief, shining moment, there was a Camelot."
Theatrical Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Official Site: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/jackie/
Release Date: December 2, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: October 11, 2016
Synopsis: JACKIE is a searing and intimate portrait of one of the most important and tragic moments in American history, seen through the eyes of the iconic First Lady, then Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Natalie Portman). JACKIE places us in her world during the days immediately following her husband's assassination. Known for her extraordinary dignity and poise, here we see a psychological portrait of the First Lady as she struggles to maintain her husband's legacy and the world of "Camelot" that they created and loved so well.
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