Jackie is directed by Pablo Larrain and tells the story of Jackie Kennedy, former First Lady of the United States of America, as she comes to terms with the assassination of her husband, and President of the United States, John F. Kennedy.
Natalie Portman stars as the titular former First Lady, and shines with an Oscar-worthy performance in a clever, intimate, and extremely worthy biopic.
Portman displays a regal, proud, yet vulnerable character that hides her immense grief while trying to ensure the survival of her husband’s legacy. She exudes a certain intimidating aura when speaking with Billy Crudup’s character, Theodore H. White, while displaying a vulnerable side when speaking with Fr. Richard McSorley, played by John Hurt. Her inability to show her profound grief for the sake of maintaining her public image speaks to the heart-breaking nature of her character, something which Portman portrays fabulously.
However, Portman is not the only strong performer. In fact, due to the choice to utilise extreme close-ups of the characters’ faces for the duration of the film, the film relies on the actors’ abilities to emote in a believable fashion.
Thankfully, nobody disappoints. Not only is Natalie Portman extraordinary in the lead role, but the likes of Peter Sarsgaard (Robert Kennedy), Billy Crudup and John Hurt all put in very good performances, with Sarsgaard in particular turning in a fantastic performance. His interactions with Portman demonstrate the impressive chemistry between the two characters, which adds to the dynamic between Robert and Jackie extremely well.
On top of that, Billy Crudup puts in a great performance as the journalist whose interview with Kennedy is the reason for the telling of her story. He demonstrates the intimidating aura of Jackie without compromising his character’s journalistic integrity, while also sharing in some entertaining banter with Jackie such as when she tells him to say that she doesn’t smoke, all the while enjoying a cigarette.
While acting is the true driving force behind the movie, it is not the only strength. The script, cinematography, and score contribute towards a film which feels powerful. The camera techniques utilised makes the film feel vintage, rather than glossy. The use of close-ups is a welcome technique as it accents the emotion of the characters. As for the music, the score, composed by Mica Levi, is used very well to reflect the drama of any situation in which it is utilised.
The use of music reflecting the situation, or pathetic fallacy, is when Jackie is walking around the White House in her different dresses while drinking and grieving the loss of her husband. The whole scene is complimented by Richard Burton’s song entitled Camelot and is easily the most heartbreaking scene in the entire film.
Jackie is an intelligent, thoughtful, and sensationally acted film. The terrific performances from its cast, as well as the clever cinematography techniques and music used, contributes towards an insightful look at one of the most well-known public figures in American political history at one of its most turbulent times.