Directed by Pablo Larraín
Written by Noah Oppenheim
Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt and Caspar Phillipson
It is an iconic event in American history, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, dramatized and chronicled to the Nth degree, so why do it again? The answer, in short, is to explore the mindset of Kennedy’s widow following the assassination. “Jackie” is just about the best possible movie exploring the aftermath of the assassination from Jackie’s perspective that you could want. Many of the dramatizations surrounding Kennedy and his assassination focus more on the straight textbook version of the event. To Pablo Larraín’s credit, he did not spend too much time on the assassination itself, instead focusing on how Jackie was coping in the aftermath of losing her husband.
At the center of “Jackie” is the phenomenal lead performance of Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy. There is a supporting cast that features some talented actors, but the supporting cast is the cinematic equivalent of cannon fodder. They are nothing, interchangeable; I am confident that the actor playing John F. Kennedy is there based solely on the fact that he is the spitting image of JFK. He gets like one line. Portman delivers what is easily the best performance by leading actress this year, and is – I still need to see “La La Land” – the lock to win the Academy Award. Portman’s performance is a nuanced and layered performance that highlights not only how vulnerable Jackie was during this time, but also how dignified and poised she was while dealing with that immense grief. Portman’s fully embodies Jackie Kennedy and avoids falling into the trap of doing a Jackie Kennedy impression. A truly brava performance.
The aspect of this film that sets apart from other dramatizations of JFK’s assassination is the way that Larraín makes this film fell like a watching a documentary. Much of the film looked as if it were a personal home movie and not a glossy Hollywood feature. Larraín also has his shots set up in such a way that made the audience feel as if they were a fly on the wall at this moment in American history. Almost like you had an intimate personal relationship with the Kennedy’s.
“Jackie” is a biopic that successfully captures a moment in time, a time in history, a defining point in the legacy of both President Kennedy and his First Lady. A picture that is driven by the excellent direction and a powerhouse performance from the leading lady. An altogether extraordinary piece of cinema, and good dramatization of American history – the brief time Larraín spends with JFK’s assassination itself carries more power because of the powerful performance that was given by Portman throughout the film.