Dan's Review: Portman shines in "Jackie"
Natalie Portman in Jackie - © 2016 Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Jackie (Fox Searchlight)
Rated R for brief strong violence and some language.
Starring Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt, Max Casella, Beth Grant, Richard E. Grant, Caspar Phillipson, John Carroll Lynch, Julie Judd, Brody and Aiden Weinberg, Sunnie Pelant, Sara Verhagen, Georgie Glen, Rebecca Compton.
Written by Noah Oppenheim.
Directed by Pablo Larraín.
The trouble with movies about real people is reality. There will always be a comparison between an actor’s portrayal of someone (usually famous), and any evaluation of the performance will be aimed at the quality of the impersonation of the individual. Some performances are so brilliant, you’d swear the actual historic figure had been reincarnated, like Jamie Fox’s spot-on portrayal of Ray Charles, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote, Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo, Denzel Washington as Malcom X and Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaff. Natalie Portman takes a swing at playing Jackie Kennedy in this week’s release of Jackie, the true story of the former first lady’s struggles during the days and weeks surrounding the assassination of JFK.
There isn’t much to the story that most people don’t already know. John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 2963. Shortly after, Lyndon Johnson (John Carroll Lynch) was sworn in as the 36th president of the United States and earlier, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested. A few days later, Oswald was assassinated by Jack Ruby and JFK (a barely seen Caspar Phillipson) was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. The movie depicts all these scenes, interspersed with a few flashbacks as Jackie tells her story to Theodore M. White (Billy Crudup), a historian and writer assigned to cover her story for Life Magazine. Most of the assassination aftermath focuses on how Jackie and Robert F. Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) deal with funeral arrangements and try to rescue JFK’s legacy by continual references to “Camelot,” a popular Broadway musical. Other struggles are also covered, including clashes with Johnson’s aide Jack Valenti (Max Casella) and consulting with artist William Walton (Richard Grant) over visual presentation of the funeral.
Jackie is an excellent film with a fantastic performance from Portman in the lead role. Having studied Jaqueline’s signature voice, Portman delivers a haunting impersonation. Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s version of the events surrounding the first lady during the assassination plays more like a horror film at times, with a creepy musical score from composer Mica Levi. Some scenes are hard to watch, including gruesome depictions of JFK’s death and the hasty investigation that followed.
Jackie truly succeeds in depicting how Mrs. Kennedy orchestrated the myth of a modern-day “Camelot” following JFK’s death. It is a genuine study of how our perceptions are deliberately shaped by design. Jackie may not sit well with those who choose to believe in the JFK “Camelot” legacy, but it’s a film that is at the very least honest about how we got such a vision.