Tuesday, January 31, 2017

[Review] Jackie

Natalie Portman gives a masterfully tumultuous performance as Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie, an impressionistic portrait of grief, trauma, and legacy.

The film begins about a week after the JFK assassination, with the iconic First Lady reeling from the tragic loss of her husband. After agreeing to an interview with a journalist (played by Billy Crudup), the film sees Jackie trudge through the funeral prep, the media's expectations, and yes--politics. Along the way, she constantly relives the moments of that awful day through non-linear flashbacks. There's a particularly devastating scene where she attempts to explain it to her children.

Jackie feels less like a typical biopic, and more like a psychological drama. A drab chamber piece of sadness. The film essentially rests on Jackie's emotions and Portman's embodiment of them. She's heartbroken, empty, distressed, vulnerable, pointed, and strong all at once. The frames are composed with a lot of centered, head-on views, creating a sort of "all eyes on me" effect. A face-to-face confrontation with the harsh reality and the weight of the aftermath. Mica Levi's score is intensely discomforting and surreal, like the narrative is floating on a moody storm cloud of gloom.

This is a difficult watch. It's cold and slow-moving. Glacial, even. But purposefully so. Between director Pablo Larrain's focused eye on craft and Natalie Portman's Oscar-nominated turn, Jackie appears to be a film that has accomplished exactly what it set out to do. It's just up to you if you want to put yourself through it. All that said, the ending's sky does elicit an ever-so slight peek of sunshine.

* 8.5/10 *

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