Jackie Review: A Showstopping Performance With Little To Do
It’s that time of the year; we are right in the heart of “Oscar Season,” and the race for “Best Actress” has what seems to be a sure winner in Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jacqueline Kennedy in the midst of her husband’s assassination. Biopics are a funny thing. Sometimes, they can be very well done, with a rich story backed by excellent performances ( Walk the Line). Other times, especially in the fall and winter months, come across as pure “Oscar Bait” for awards consideration (The Iron Lady). Unfortunately, the Pablo Larrain directed character study that attempts to dive into the psyche of one of the most iconic first ladies falls into the latter.
Jackie tries to layer Jackie Kennedy with humanity, doubt, and reservation while keeping it together in the public eye. The story takes liberties with the truthfulness of mostly everything. From an interview in which Jackie contradicts half of what she is saying, to having a few one-off lines that seem like they are written in a Hallmark card. That’s not to say some of the more famous moments ain’t done with care; they are indeed. The actual assassination of JFK is done a gritty, brutal fashion from Jackie’s point of view that rivals the most tension filled horror movies out there. It’s a scene that in itself, deserves a best directing nom.
The film takes place in a multitude of timelines within the small period in which the movie takes place. Jackie opens a week after the assassination of President Kennedy, with the former First Lady telling her side of the story. The film flashes back to before and after the assassination, peaking inside what went on outside of the limelight.
When Jackie goes that extra mile to paint Mrs. Kennedy in a vulnerable, yet strong manner, Portman’s performances is elevated beyond words. The way she carries herself in the more intimate and quiet scenes showcases why Natalie Portman is one of the best actresses working today. The rawness in her mannerisms in the moments following the tragedy are nothing short of brilliant.
Unfortunately, Jackie falls into some central biopic bores as the more formulaic approach overshadows the intimacy of the story. The script keeps Portman one note a majority of the runtime, with her accent feeling on the cartoony side more often than Jan not. There’s only so many times we can see Jacquline Kennedy crying before it becomes a parody of itself.
The screenplay and direction are admirable, finding ways to humanize someone who is deemed “perfect” by the public eye. Little nuances like decorating and sneaking a cigarette here and there were nice touches that added to the story in a way that’s not overabundant.
That being said, there is a portion of the movie that is a televised tour of the White House with Jackie that feels out of place and awkward. It’s not made entirely clear that is this is a facade Jackie had and presented to the public, as that’s what it comes across as. The acting is stale, and the delivery is dry and not consistent with an overall terrific performance.
The film looks gorgeous, with costume design and sets looking pitch perfect. The movie is shot on film, and it works for the story, immersing you in the 60’s period. The vintage look and feel of the smallest details Larrain brought to the table make you wish that the final product was more engaging.
Ultimately, Jackie edges as an awards vehicle for yet another memorable performance from Natalie Portman, even if the 100 minute run time feels like 200 minutes in the end.
Jackie is out in theaters nationwide