Director: Pablo Larraín
Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup, John Hurt, Richard E. Grant
Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy. (Source: IMDb)
Unlike a lot of other biopics, Jackie makes a bold statement in choosing not only to focus solely on its titular character, but also to focus on such a short period of time in the characters life. Whilst there’s some flashbacks utilised in Jackie, much of it focuses on the few days in the immediate aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and the effect it had on the widowed Jackie Kennedy. In this sense, Jackie is much more of a character study than a traditional biopic, and it is this which makes it so interesting.
For a film like this to work, the central performance has to be truly outstanding, and fortunately Natalie Portman is more than up to the job. She gives a truly wonderful performance in this film, but more than that she embodies the character so uncannily, that at times it is easy to forget you’re watching an actress. There’s some stiff competition in the Best Actress awards categories but this performance shows Portman is definitely a contender.
Jackie is dramatic and theatrical in its style and tone which the trailers definitely hinted at, yet for all its operatic grandeur, the square aspect ratio and use of close-ups makes it an altogether more intimate affair. The cinematography is gorgeous as well, with an authentically grainy style that really helps to ground it in the era in which it is set. The use of colour by Larraín was undeniably effective as well, with a recurring motif that really made the visuals stand out.
With a film where the subject matter is so familiar, it was refreshing to see how Jackie builds up to seeing the assassination, the true horror of which has all the dramatic punch it needs as it is seen quite late into the film. This was incredibly effective, and made it all the more shocking.
The score from Mica Levi is absolutely gorgeous, dramatic and haunting and providing the perfect soundtrack accompaniment to the visuals. Equally, it is a score which would be pleasant to listen to in isolation of the film, which is always a good thing!
The narrative structure of Jackie was a little sporadic in places, flitting between her being interviewed, the events following the death of her husband, some events in the future and flashbacks of the past. Whilst it certainly made for an interesting and unique way of telling the story, it was somewhat jarring in places as well but this is really just a minor flaw.
I saw this movie and you should too. Natalie Portman delivers a haunting and dramatic performance with pitch-perfect characterisation, that is absolutely worthy of its awards consideration. Jackie has a unique and wonderful focus which makes it standout from other biopics and it offers an interesting alternative view of a historical event which is already so familiar. It is gorgeous to look at, the score is wonderful and it is a testament to an incredible woman and an event which changed history. Well worth a watch!