With the Oscars now on everyone’s mind, a movie comes along with an unexpected bang. Jackie is the biopic that gives perspective on Jacqueline Kennedy’s struggle following the assassination of JFK. Director Pablo Larraín and leading lady Natalie Portman combine to produce a film that is destined to take awards.
Straight out of the blocks, this becomes obvious. There should never be any doubting Natalie Portman’s ability. Her Academy Award for Black Swan was deserved, but after a minute of seeing her as the title lead, it’s clear she is about to scale new heights. She really is that good here. To say “engaging” is an understatement. Playing the woman that was once above every female on earth, she steals the big screen and makes a world that is all hers.
The narrative follows suit. Jackie is sat with an unnamed journalist, pouring her heart out while strictly editing what is permissible to print. This interview then cuts between events, before and after the death of her husband, even from one interview to another. It is cleverly edited to create a cohesive stream of consciousness.
It does make you wonder if it is a work within a work. We see her retell the story as she wants it now, laid bare, revealing her historical interview to be a fictional tale. It begs the question: is this just a new fiction, shaped by the passage of time?
If it is a less-than-true account, it doesn’t matter. The power of the ideals and ideas deserve this platform.
Watching it, you feel as if it is the sixties. Clever cinematography and an aspect ratio that won’t leave borders when it anamorphic widescreens to your telly to create the illusion. The performers use the canvas well. Any danger the attempt to make the past feel alive at the expense of a modern big movie experience is cancelled out by Mica Levi’s score.
A feel that is pounding with drama and driven by Jackie’s heartbeat is taken to a dramatic high with the soundtrack. Which is no mean feat when the leading lady delivers so much.
Portman gives a decade defining, generation setting, career high performance.
It’ll be a matter of opinion if the graphic scenes are gratuitous. The horror is at first hinted, then after living Jackie’s pain (through Portman’s perfect performance), finally revealed in full. Did we need to see it? Perhaps. Why should the viewer be shielded from that haunting vision after being an emotional vampire on Jackie’s neck?
The most famous assassination in history now has a story that isn’t interested in any conspiracy. It’s about what the focus should have been all along: real people coping with loss.
Surprisingly, the film is a 100/1 shot for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and Pablo Larraín isn’t even getting a mention for Best Director. Natalie Portman is currently second favourite behind Emma Stone for Best Actress. If she doesn’t take the award, it will be a travesty. Whether or not the film sits right with you, is paced correctly, or has the intended impact, is subjective.
What is factual is how Portman’s performance surpasses anything else we’ll see this year – potentially this decade.