L-R: Caspar Phillipson as John F. Kennedy, Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy, Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy; Pablo Larrain/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation(NEW YORK) — As if her Oscar for Black Swan weren’t enough, in Jackie, Natalie Portman continues to prove that her performances in the Star Wars movies were a function of bad directing, not a reflection of her ability as a world-class actress.
Director Pablo Larrain takes a script written by Noah Oppenheim and pulls off a neat cinematic trick: he turns Jackie Kennedy, an icon of opulence, glamour and grace, into the tragic and heroic protagonist of a narrative steeped in neorealism and David Lynch-like surrealism.
We meet Jackie Kennedy a week after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. She’s at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, where she greets a journalist (Billy Crudup) at the door. While Portman looks as poised and composed as we ever imagine Jackie Kennedy was or should be, her eyes, the quiver in her voice, and the way she smokes her cigarette suggest something otherwise.
Jackie proceeds to tells the story of the assassination. Oppenheim’s script weaves that story via Kennedy’s first-hand account to the journalist, which includes graphic, sobering flashbacks to the assassination, and its immediate fallout. There’s also a remarkable recreation of Jackie Kennedy’s famous live televised tour of the White House.
Through that lens, we get terrific performances from Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy, and Greta Gerwig as Jackie’s assistant. Caspar Phillipson makes an impressive JFK, and Billy Crudup’s performance as the unnamed journalist interviewing Jackie Kennedy — firm one moment, fumbling and backtracking the next, almost cowering when Mrs. Kennedy calls him on the carpet — is organic and up to the task.
This is Jackie Kennedy as we’ve never really seen her before — raw as raw can be and doing everything she can, in the days following the worst moment of her life, to protect her husband’s legacy, knowing full well his flaws as a husband.
Even with its stylistic panache and a tour de force performance from Portman, Jackie drags in places, and manipulates in others where it doesn’t need to. Nonetheless, it’s a stunning historical snapshot and nifty piece of filmmaking.
Four out of five stars.
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