Natalie Portman stars as Jackie Kennedy who one week after the funeral of JFK gives her own side of the story to a reporter about what happened in the aftermath of the assassination of the President. Billy Crudup plays the reporter who has to tip toe around the former First Lady who will insist on editing every single word that he writes down before he can write the story.
The assassination of JFK is one of those events in the history of the world where we’ll be debating the event for all time. There are conspiracy theories running through the world that will make you head spin, some are believable and others are so far out of this world that you’ll laugh in the face of the person telling you, but it’s down to you to believe what you want. Here in Jackie we don’t get the facts of the death, just the effect that the death has on Jackie, and the political landscape of America.
Natalie Portman gives a whispering performance of the shattered first lady, she’s lost the man that she loves, the father to her children, the position in the White House, and her President. She has to keep control of her emotions and the swinging states of them as she organises the funeral. With the help of Bobby Kennedy and other White House staffers who are trying their best to accommodate her through the grieving process that she is going through. The performance from Natalie Portman is without doubt the best of her career, that is not in question, she seems to finally feel confident in her talent. The big problem I have with Jackie is that it feels like a stage play poorly adapted for the big screen. Stage plays of historical events have been brought to the big screen before, Frost/Nixon, and with better success. I for one would think that this biopic would have been better served as a stage play.
My biggest annoyance in any film is the under use of good talent. Here there are a few examples of such an annoyance, and the fact that I didn’t scream out during the film surely must count towards my Sainthood. First example is Greta Gerwig who last year starred in one of the more honest comedies of Miss America, playing here the assistant to Jackie, is just so underused that you feel you didn’t need to spend the cash on a named performer. The same can be said about the Priest that Jackie confides her dark night of the soul to, being played by John Hurt, I mean I know he’s going through a tough time with his health but this is just disgraceful for me.
The whole film feels like anyone other than Natalie Portman should just be covered with a blanket and there is not a need to see their faces or performance. Peter Sarsgaard plays Bobby Kennedy and is the only one who comes close to giving another rounded performance. The historical news coverage around the events of the assassination is blended in wonderfully to recreation. I cannot fault the production values, with the set design and wardrobe departments nailing the feel and fashion of the period.
The shock of the assassination is perfectly understandable, how Portman translates this into the conflicting emotions of Jackie is outstanding, I cannot fault her performance at all. It’s just that I can’t find much else in the film that would urge me to go see this again, one well written and well performed role isn’t enough for me to justify the cost of admission to see this film. I would not be shocked though if Portman wins awards for her subtle and yet surprising performance.
Director: Pablo Larraín
Writer: Noah Oppenheim
Stars: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig