Friday, December 30, 2016

Movie Review: "Jackie" (2016)

Director: Pablo Larraín
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
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Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) recounts the events following the assassination of her husband from her point of view.

"Jackie" is directed by Pablo Larraín, who is known for his films "The Club" and "Neruda." It is written by Noah Oppenheim, who prior to this had written only young adult novel adaptations like "The Maze Runner" and "Allegiant." It stars Natalie Portman as the titular Jackie Kennedy, and is centered around an interview between her and an unnamed reporter, played by Billy Crudup, as she tells the events following her husband's assassination. The film also touches slightly on the fact that Jackie was the first real television-era first lady of the United States, and how the media played a large role in not only her marriage to and the death of her husband, but the public persona and perception of the Kennedy family as a whole.

This film is all about Natalie Portman as she attempts to crack the shell of Jackie Kennedy with her performance as this deeply layered character. Not only was Jackie mourning the loss of her husband, but she was also concerned with cementing his legacy and comforting her children, all while doing her best to remain strong and poised for a watching, waiting, judging nation and world. It really is a powerful portrayal, and Portman nails the part perfectly, from the iconic look aided by Madeline Fontaine's costume design, to the elegant walk and the accent. She truly becomes Jackie, so much so that at times, she is unrecognizable and indistinguishable. This is the type of role actors live for, allowing her to display a full range of emotions as well as deep level of simultaneous vulnerability and strength. Joining Portman are Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy, Greta Gerwig as the first lady's assistant and confidant Nancy Tuckerman, Caspar Phillipson as John F. Kennedy, who was likely chosen for his striking resemblance to the late president, as well as John Hurt, Richard E. Grant, John Carroll Lynch, Beth Grant, and Max Casella. Though all of them are fine in their respective roles, no one really come close eclipsing Portman in terms of greatness. She even rises above the movie as a whole, helping elevate what, without her, would be a rather conventional biography. Unlike past films about the Kennedy family, it does try to crack through and go beyond who Jackie was perceived to be and tries to show the complex woman she was past all of the pearls and dinnerware.

Pablo Larraín has created quite a film in "Jackie." Some will love it, others will hate it, but either way, it provides a very in-depth look at a woman concerned with image and power while being doused in vanity and sorrow. It is very documentarian in its execution as the camera stays close and tight on Portman's person almost at all times. The middle of the frame is used often and is done with purpose. Real life footage is also used and spliced in with the movie seamlessly to create an even more realistic feel. While it's mostly subtle, the film as a whole can venture into a little bit of a frenetic pace while the actual assassination is occurring. At its core, "Jackie" is a character sketch about a fascinating, layered character held up by the strong, weighty performance by Natalie Portman. She is vulnerable and sympathetic, but is also commanding and strong. The rewatchability factor might not be there, but it will sure as hell stand for decades to come as a lesson in brilliant acting.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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