Directed by: Pablo Larraín – Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt
Using the premise of the 1963 interview for Life magazine, given by former U.S. First Lady, Jackie Kennedy (Portman) this film looks at the immediate aftermath of JFK’s assassination, and the effect that it had on her.
Billy Crudup plays the journalist, who is tasked with making the shell-shocked Jackie relive her time in ‘Camelot’, and its tragic end. As such, it isn’t really a biopic, as it has an extremely narrow focus. It’s really a biographical snapshot of a moment in time, that still holds a special mystique for the masses.
Of course, that mythology owes its existence in no small part to Jackie – a woman keenly aware of her public image. Director Larraín takes advantage of that here, to show both her public and private faces. She is constantly holding a cigarette, but instructs the journalist, that, as far as readers are concerned, she doesn’t smoke.
She feeds him titbits about how she felt sitting next to her husband as he was shot, and then instructs him that he can’t write that. This is a woman determined to maintain the picture-perfect image of her time in the White House in people’s minds.
She is also aware of her status, and refers to the fact that Lincoln’s widow died destitute – a fate that, even without knowing the facts, you are pretty sure won’t befall the steely, and determined, Jackie.
Larraín juxtaposes flashbacks to her famous televised tour of the White House, with the scenes of the assassination and its aftermath, interspersed with the interview she is giving. Throughout these moments, she remains dignified and exudes strength. The interview scenes turn out to be the most revealing part of this movie, as she occasionally drops her cool exterior to flash a moment of pain or anger.
Some dramatic licence has been taken with certain facts, but nothing that will (even in this day and age) compromise the legacy of the one-time most famous couple in the world. Although there is a frisson implied between herself and Bobby Kennedy (Sarsgaard) on the whole Jackie is a deeply respectful intense character study, rather than a character assassination.
The politics are glossed over – it’s mentioned but only in passing – and there is no reference to JFK’s well-documented infidelities (which Jackie is known to have known about). Instead, Jackie paints a picture of a halcyon existence, lived in a rarefied air, that was brought to a shocking end by a gunman’s bullet.
Portman is fantastic as Jackie, even if she doesn’t always resemble her. She has her old Bostonian twang down, and you really get a sense of her underlying anguish. Everyone else is very much a supporting player, merely there to bolster her performance. It should also go without saying that Jackie is super-stylish, with Portman sporting an array of replica outfits worn by the fashion-forward first lady.
Thanks to its sense of intimacy, and its almost voyeuristic insight into Jackie’s private moments, Jackie maintains interest to the end (even though you know most of the story already). However, much like the woman herself, Jackie is almost like a live action magazine shoot, and an elegant assault on the eyeballs.
This movie plays down the action, in favour of documenting genuine emotion, and by the end you almost feel like Jackie’s BFF!
Far more than a run of the mill historical drama, Jackie should satisfy anyone looking for a decent big-screen drama fix.
In Cinemas Now! See Trailer Below: