Natalie Portman has already proved her talents in countless films, and scooped an Oscar for her enchanting performance in Black Swan. It seemed impossible for her to get any better – that is until now.
In Jackie, it isn’t Portman you’re watching on screen; it’s the former U.S. First Lady Jackie Kennedy in all her glory with perfectly styled hair and a baby-like voice. But it’s not this side of Jackie which audiences are captivated by in the film; it’s the grief and sorrow she suffers away from the spotlight after the assassination of her husband John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, in 1963.
She was a woman who was praised for her poise and elegance in front of the cameras, so when Life magazine journalist Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup) arrives at her Massachusetts home shortly after her spouse’s death to interview her, he’s understandably intrigued by her mystique.
It’s clear from the off that Jackie is in control of the conversation and what goes to print, letting herself slip occasionally and revealing intimate details of the shooting and her marriage before that fateful day, quickly telling Theodore, “I didn’t say that.”
The film flashes back to Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson) and Jackie arriving in Dallas, Texas, to smooth over frictions in the Democratic Party, but it isn’t long before the politician’s wife finds herself holding the bloody head of her husband in the backseat of an open-top car after he was shot twice. What ensues is a journey of pain, mourning and manipulation as Jackie anticipates how to move forward from this tragedy and maintain her reputation to the public.
Portman embodies her famous alter ego to perfection, especially when we see her in the iconic pink ensemble she wore on the day Kennedy was killed. Her transformation is so convincing that it’s almost like watching a documentary rather than a biopic, which is also thanks to the inclusion of real footage from the time.
Director Pablo Larrain and writer Noah Oppenheim chose to recreate scenes from Jackie’s famous tour of the White House in 1962 with CBS News presenter Charles Collingwood. It’s during these shots that Portman truly shines, and Jackie receives praise for her TV appearance from journalist Theodore who tells her she could’ve been a broadcaster.
Then scenes where Jackie plays songs from the musical Camelot while trying on dresses, gulping down alcohol and puffing away at a cigarette tug at heartstrings and it gives viewers a secret insight into her anguish, but the next thing we know she’s strong and demanding to walk through Washington D.C. with the casket of her late husband despite security risks. It’s these contrasting personalities that made her such a fascinating person and, it seems, someone who protected herself by switching so much.
Also making the film a success is Peter Sarsgaard as Kennedy’s brother Bobby and Greta Gerwig as White House Social Secretary Nancy Tuckerman, who becomes almost like a sister to Jackie.
Shot beautifully and running at the ideal pace, Jackie appeals to a worldwide audience as it’s more about the tale of a woman trying to regain control of her life after one of the most famous events in recent history. Have tissues at the ready!
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