By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Natalie Portman makes a triumphant return in Jackie; a beautifully crafted unconventional biopic that harks back to a day when politicians still had a certain poise and level of intelligence.
Jackie sees the events around J. F. Kennedy’s assassination from the grieving point of view of the enigmatic First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) during an interview with a journalist (Billy Crudup).
As you’ve probably already gathered, this is not a happy-go-lucky biopic. Although there is some form of closure and lightness to the ending, Jackie is exactly what the trailer suggests; an hour and a half of grief, but gorgeous grief.
Director Pablo Larraín (No, The Club) has made a biopic that’s not exactly a biopic. The clever thing about Jackie is that the narrative coincides very closely and artistically with the interview in the film. We are gradually shown the events of the assassination but never in chronological order, and the overall style and cinematography is sharp and a beautiful portrait of Larraín’s award winning work, as well as a portrait of Jackie Kennedy’s version of events, be it at times a little repetitive.
Jackie astutely edits the interview to match her own version of events and in turn, edits what we see as well. It’s a fascinating and quite an original way of portraying biographical events in film and works it’s magic quite well. However, there are moments that could have been cut shorter.
Majority of the film was shrouded in the unfathomable grief that the first lady had to deal with and Portman rises to the occasion, but it would have been nice to see more of a character arc and see her at her most desperate. The film only minutely touches on the actual shooting scene which is a nice contrast to the rest of the film, but overall the narrative would have benefited from more drama and emotional range in that pivotal scene.
And that’s why the second act becomes a little tedious at times. The recurring motifs of a centre framed, perfectly symmetrical and grieving Portman, as well as a minimal classically inspired score by Mica Levi make it a bit dull at times. But I don’t believe Larraín’s intention was to bore us, but to simply highlight the repetitive ups and downs of Jackie’s struggle and inability to commit to a decision about her late husband’s funeral arrangements.
It’s been nominated for three Oscars including Best Actress for Natalie Portman, Best Original Music Score, and Best Costume Design. There’s a chance that the film might snag one of the latter, but I’m not entirely sure Portman can follow through like she did in the Darren Aronofsky’s (who also produced Jackie) Black Swan several years ago.
Basically, this film is a wonderfully stylistic external interpretation of Jackie’s internal turmoil, and an extremely creative psychodrama. It fleshes out the first lady’s ability to lead a country through such a traumatic event and shows that she was more than just a style icon. It’s also one of the late John Hurt’s last films and certainly does him justice. If only that second act hadn’t disappeared inside itself a little, this would be a 5-star film.
Photo: Boise Weekly