Jackie (NC16: some disturbing scenes)
Starring Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup Directed by Pablo Larraín
Natalie Portman, a 2011 Academy Award winner for Black Swan, has a shot at another Best Actress next week for her performance as Jacqueline Kennedy although Jackie is no conventional biopic and so much more insightful because of the filmmakers’ bold innovation.
The movie is an English-language debut by Chile’s acclaimed director Pablo Larraín (No; Neruda).
It conflates the historical and the psychological for a mesmeric impressionistic study of the contradictions between Mrs Kennedy’s private and public grief during the days immediately following US President John F Kennedy’s 1963 assassination. Alone, Jackie wanders the White House drenched in tears and vodka; in front of the world she is the poised, famously elegant 34-year-old widow, consoling her two young children, stage-managing a funeral with her brother-in-law Robert Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) and social secretary (Greta Gerwig).
And in extreme close-ups she is a mask betraying nothing even as Mica Levi’s dissonant score, itself nominated for an Oscar, projects her fractured psyche.
The effect, and Portman’s stillness, is eerie.
Portman gets not only the breathy vocals and fluttery gestures but the multifaceted personality, how frosty, formidable and shrewd Jackie could be whether standing up to Lyndon B Johnson’s (John Carroll Lynch) incoming administration or at her 1963 Life magazine interview that frames the film. “Don’t let it be forgot,” she tells the reporter (Billy Crudup), in reference to her husband’s presidency, “the one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”
By shaping the JFK legacy, Jackie memorialised herself. The former First Lady was also the first lady of the televisual age, a self-aware manipulator of her publicity and image a whole half-century before today’s social media stars. 4.5/5