Aida Vucic | 15/01/2017
Pablo Larrain’s first foray into the world of English-language cinema brings us face to face with Jackie Kennedy, as portrayed to exquisite accuracy by Natalie Portman, in this jumpy and middling biopic.
We’ve never been short of films featuring our political leaders but this may be the first political movie centered on a debutante; one whose greatest political accolade is the redecorating of the White House. Jackie, as the name implies, focuses entirely on the stylish first lady, who was renowned for her poise and grace. The film challenges these preconceived characteristics in its retelling of the ensuing events of the JFK assassination from the perspective of Jackie, herself.
Irrespective of your political knowledge, consensus is that the majority of the general public are familiar with the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. His term was marked by volatility from the communist states, ultimately resulting in his assassination in 1963, one of the most tragic moments in a American history. But ‘behind every great man there is an even greater woman’, or so some would say, whether this is accurate in the case of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy is yet to be seen.
Although Pablo Larrain’s portrayal of Jackie during the preceding days of her husband’s assassination is provocative, the story itself is weak, using Theodore White’s interview with Jackie as a means of reference, the film shifts from scenes of Jackie talking to the reporter about the aftermath, to flashbacks of the events, intertwined with actual footage of the events. Whilst also following Jackie’s religious council with a priest as she struggles to come to terms with the loss of her husband and her suicidal ideations, the film is erratic.
These transitions lacked cohesion. The mixing of actual footage with recreated footage was not successfully executed for it to be deemed as an example of great creative decision making from Larrain’s, praise which he has previously received. The story is a somewhat unflattering portrayal of the Kennedy clan as being both a political empire as well as superficial royalty – affectionately coined as Camelot. As the story transpires over the course of no more than two weeks, it offers a more complete depiction than any standard biographical drama.
Redemption is found in Natalie Portman’s performance of Jackie. Portman would be the clear choice based solely on her physical resemblance, but she exceeds our expectations. Her accent is a near perfect replica of Jackie’s docile voice, coupled with her infamous twang. Her controlled walk and flawless movements, make this film one of Portman’s greatest performances to date. The extreme and intense close-ups are accompanied by Mica Levi’s warped string score which will have you transfixed.
Jackie, while no doubt a unique piece of cinematography and with a resplendent, thorough performance by Portman, lacks the cohesive, interesting structure it needs to create a plot we truly care about. Interesting, but not engaging.