Jackie (2016) Directed by Pablo Larraín. Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig. IMDB says: “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.”
From the first ten minutes of Jackie, it is apparent that this is not your run-of-the-mill biopic. It may seem so at first, since it opens with her meeting a reporter at the door of the Hyannis Port mansion, days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Instantly you assume this will be your standard issue spine of the movie where her interview guides the flashbacks. It’s a go to narrative structure, but here it is not what it seems. There is an interview and there are scenes of the weeks leading up to it, but it is all layered in with other conversations Jackie Kennedy takes part in and not always chronologically. It has more of a feeling of a musical composition than a narrative device. It really feels special.
Natalie Portman commands the screen as Jackie Kennedy from the start with a very particular accent and tone about her that feels almost otherworldly. Jackie Kennedy was an icon and Portman raises her to that level where you can absolutely see why the country was obsessed with this enchanting, regal woman. This portrayal does not shy from the darker parts of her either, the sadness and egotism. This was a woman completely obsessed with legacy and you see that from her passion of restoring the White House to historical dignity to giving her husband a funeral that would reflect his prestige. You feel right there with her as she experiences the chaos of the assassination day, but also the loss of returning alone to their White House living quarters. There’s intimate moments shared with Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) and her close companion Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) where she shows her vulnerable side, but also exudes a steely determination to the bureaucrats swarming her.
It’s such a complex portrayal, really more than I ever expected. Portman is great in the performance, but the film itself is completely elevated by its Chilean director Pablo Larraín (Neruda) who gives the film such a distinct look and tone. It really stands apart in the genre with how original it all feels. That combined with the intricate editing really makes it one of the best made biopics I’ve seen. The last major positive for this film is the score by Mica Levi who was responsible for one of my favorite scores in recent years for Under the Skin. It is so completely unexpected for this type of film to have a score like this. At times, it almost feels like a discomforting horror movie score but then will slip into delicately beautiful sections that really do just take hold of you as you watch. It’s my favorite score of the year.
This is an exceptionally well-made film and such an intense portrait that gives new insight into a fascinating person. It is a worthy film to represent someone so concerned with legacy.
FTS SCORE: 90%
Jackie is currently in limited theaters.