FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES (2017)
Director: Pablo Larraín
Starring: Natalie Portman, Billy Crudup, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt
Set in the immediate aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s death on November 22nd 1963, Jackie follows the First Lady Jackie Kennedy (Portman) through her consummate grief following the public death of her husband, whilst also continuing to be a mother to their children, vacating the White House and the painstaking task of arranging a funeral that would rival that of Abraham Lincoln.
Initially beginning as a later conversation for Life Magazine at her residence in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, we see Jackie holding all of her cards to her chest as the Journalist (Crudup – Theodore H. White in reality, credit as the Journalist) attempts to piece together a story. Jackie is extremely wary and lets him know emphatically that she will be editing his story to avoid being misquoted or inaccurate information being circulated.
Through flashbacks being recounted by the First Lady, we are shown Jackie in the fateful motorcade in Dealey Plaza, Dallas with her lifeless husband slumped across her. Still in extreme shock and with blood of her husband still drying on her, she has to watch Lyndon Johnson sworn in as the 36th President of the United States aboard Air Force One. We are also shown Jackie before the incident in Texas, as she discusses her participating in a CBS documentary, where she personally took viewers on a tour of the White House. This is the side of her most people are accustomed to, as well as later fashion work and as a writer.
The movie provides insight into her relationship with the Johnsons, her anguish at leaving the White House and the work she had begun within, how she and Robert F. Kennedy (Sarsgaard) dealt with the tragedy between them and her bond with her two young children, Caroline and John, as she attempts to explain where “Daddy” is.
The most powerful scenes are with Father Richard McSorley (Hurt) and the lengthy discussions and trials surrounding the funeral arrangements, and the determination within Jackie to ensure her husband’s legacy is never forgotten, that her Camelot shall live on. However, the scenes of Jackie removing her bloodstained clothing and hosiery are chilling, the grief/anger/sadness all finally coming out in a rare moment of privacy.
Jackie is shot in an almost documentary fashion thanks to the flashbacks, but this really helps to flesh out the story and lends some credence to it, as opposed to merely running through the events cinematically. Larraín does a marvellous job of setting the scene, and creating a tight, claustrophobic atmosphere – almost as if we are in Jackie’s mind. The camera is never far from a close up of her face and we see every emotion she had to go through.
Natalie Portman does a stunning job as Jackie Kennedy, a cultural icon with an enduring legacy, and big shoes to fill. She nails the often odd vocals and dialect, and captures the real emotion behind Jackie’s eyes – also being in the famous Kennedy outfits adds to the performance, she passes almost effortlessly as the former First Lady. It is a nuanced performance crammed with competing layers and is every bit as compelling as it is powerful.
The supporting cast back Portman up wonderfully, with Gerwig’s portrayal of Nancy Tuckerman (White House Social Secretary) bringing some warmth to the movie, and John Hurt delivering extra quality. The only downside was Skarsgaard’s vocal delivery, it wasn’t nailed on as Bobby Kennedy, but it wasn’t bad.
A special mention should go to Mica Levi for the haunting, minor key musical accompaniment for the movie. Every emotion felt was echoed by the music, whether in short staccato stabs or melancholic string arrangements, the music really helped to paint the picture further and add greater weight to proceedings on screen
Overall, the movie delivered a staggering performance from Portman and gave a haunting psychological insight of a woman thrust into a startling slice of history. There were moments throughout the middle section where the narrative seemed to get lost or not progress as quickly as before, but Jackie is a fine piece of movie making, helping to solidify the Kennedy’s lasting legacy.
January 29th 2017