Pablo Larrain / Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt / Drama / 2017 / 15 / 99mins
One of the best solo performances of recent years captures the sophisticated beauty of history, death and American paranoia. Conspiracy theories at the ready, it’s JFK time.
The assassination of JFK remains one of the biggest cultural upheavals of the 20th century. It was a brutal blow to American and global politics; millions still remember where they were when they heard the news. But imagine being at the centre of all that? That’s where Jackie comes in.
Natalie Portman performs a masterclass to bring Jackie Kennedy to life. She’s clearly studied the accent down to how she holds herself in front of different characters. It’s what I would describe as an organic performance, one that is constantly shifting.
Although Portman is a riveting centrepiece, every other actor reaches impeccable heights. John Hurt, in his last role before his untimely death, stands out as a wholesome priest.
It’s also worth mentioning that this is Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s first English language movie, let alone first Hollywood movie. Having an all-star cast helps, but my does he know how to get every last drop of acting guile out of each and every one.
By any biopic’s standards, Jackie is, as they say, ‘artsy’. Traditional accounts of celebrity life on the big screen can be a run-of-the-mill affair, a straightforward march from childhood to adult prime to death. How Larrain structures his movie as a reflection of Jackie’s trauma – fractured and disorienting – is genius.
But boy is this film heavy. The panic, the tears, the raw emotion – all is relentlessly on display, accompanied by Mica Levi’s deathly score (akin to nails on chalkboards). Somehow it’s all worth it as the film climaxes perfectly.
This wasn’t a pleasure to watch by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly was breathtaking – and I don’t use that term lightly. There’s an ethereal quality to Jackie that few films achieve. In all honesty, I will most likely never watch this film again, but I want this film seared into my memory as it is, in stasis, forever a monument. And that is the highest praise I can give.
Film as a Film – 5 / Target Audience – 5 / General Audience – 3
Jackie is in cinemas now
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