Release Date: December 2, 2016
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: Pablo Larraín
Cast: Natalie Portman; Peter Sarsgaard; Greta Gerwig; Billy Crudup; John Hurt; John Carroll Lynch; Max Casella
Natalie Portman disappears into Camelot with her astonishing portrayal of Jacqueline Kennedy in “Jackie.” Portman, director Pablo Larraín and screenwriter Noah Oppenheim provide an unusual glimpse into what life must have been like for Jackie in the week following the assassination of her husband, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, as she juggled two small grieving children, her own melancholy and the mourning of a nation.
This is a classy movie, all the way around, which strikes me as an appropriate tribute since Jackie was considered one of the classiest women of her time. A tremendous amount of care, research and attention to detail permeates every aspect of this film. The 60s production design (by Jean Rabasse) as well as costume design (by Madeline Fontaine) in particular add tremendous depth to the piece and provide a meticulously detailed lens through which to experience the time and place.
The movie jumps around in time, but manages never to lose the viewer, partly due to that old stalwart, the “interview-as-framing device,” periodically re-centering the movie. Interestingly, the film is not presented as a straight-up biopic, covering its subject’s life from beginning to end. Rather, “Jackie” focuses on that one horrible week in Mrs. Kennedy’s life, allowing us to view her in the aftermath of the assassination as a scared, yet strong and, ultimately, very human being who simply wants to say goodbye to her husband in as respectful a manner as possible given the circumstances surrounding her.
Without sensationalizing anything, Larraín recreates JFK’s assassination in Dallas and Portman vividly recalls the absolute terror and total shock that envelops Jackie. She digs deeper than your typical Oscar-bait performance and finds the humanity and the person inside Jackie and allows the audience to see a mother, a wife, and a woman who just has to keep her shit together for the sake of the nation and her children. This is not simply a personification; it’s a remarkable performance.
Good support all around is provided by Billy Crudup as The Journalist, Greta Gerwig as Jackie’s long-time assistant, and Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy, nicely portraying a man trying to keep his sister-in-law as comfortable as possible, while still mourning the loss of his brother.
While Oppenheim’s script is literate and avoids any trace of schmaltz, this is, when it all boils down, a good movie wrapped around an astounding performance. You’ll watch the movie and not be bored, you might admire the design and some of the dialogue, but you’ll really be watching it for Portman’s show. Her Jackie alone makes watching “Jackie” worth it.