D: Pablo Lorraín. W: Noah Oppenheim. DP: Stéphanie Fontaine. Starring: Natalie Portman/Billy Crudup/Peter Sarsgaard/Greta Gerwig/John Hurt/Richard E. Grant/Caspar Phillipson/Beth Grant/John Carroll Lynch.
As we head into the Academy Awards this weekend it cannot be denied that this cinematic year has included many heavy hitters. Part of this community is Jackie. The film is thrice nominated for its lead actress, costume design, and score.
Rather than taking a linear approach to the lead up and devastation following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the film focuses entirely on the trauma experienced by its First Lady, Jacqueline. Scenes play out when and as Jackie (Natalie Portman) sees fit during an interview with a journalist (Billy Crudup) a week after the event. Now seen as an icon of 1960s style and social grace, Jackie builds a profile of a woman whose life switched gears in an instant and whose vision of grief resounded in a spectacular funeral march.
Chilean director Pablo Lorraín masterfully reigns over Noah Oppenheim’s script. Archival footage, mostly in wide shot, accompanies the film’s recreation of a televised tour of the White House led by the First Lady as well as various Kennedy arrivals and funeral coverage. These bits of recorded history add a layer of reality, but also voyeurism to consumption of the Kennedy image. The axis of the film is certainly Portman’s performance. Her petite frame echoes a former life lived in Chanel suits and evening wear. Nothing feels hammed up here and that might be Jackie‘s greatest success.
For someone of my generation whose knowledge of the Kennedys is limited to images and stories, Jackie‘s focus on post traumatic stress through fractured images and memory does service to its leading woman. A heightened score by Mica Levi breaks through the frame. The film never tells its audience how to feel about Jackie’s emotional tapestry. Rather it concerns itself with painting that turbulent fight between public and private selves. Jackie probably will not suit everyone, yet in a boring climate of linear biopics this shines through its point of view.