So, why do we remember Jackie Kennedy?
The mention of her name doesn’t mean that much to me, because she was around before my time, just like many of you reading this. It only takes a quick look at the past to see what an inspirational and iconic figure she was. But I’ll skip the history lesson and get down to business with this review…
Jackie came out earlier this year in the UK off the back of raving reviews and a flood of Oscar Nominations, including Natalie Portman for Best Actress. She didn’t win, but I think she really should have. With Portman in the lead, Jackie calls back to a bygone era and it makes for an insightful biopic. It dramatises a key interview between Mrs Kennedy and a LIFE magazine reporter.
She’s conscious of her words being twisted, so she makes it clear that she’ll only let the journalist print words she approves. By the way, the journalist is extremely casual and it’s kind of annoying. No reporter in the world would have appeared to the real-life Jackie Kennedy like that, but I guess you can’t get everything perfect in a biopic.
Anyway, as the interview unfolds, the film cuts back to before and after JFK’s assassination, leading up to his funeral. Through flashbacks, we see how Jackie deals with the aftermath of her husband’s death, in a mix of imagined moments and documented events.
It’s only a small part of her life, but it still makes for an interesting portrait. Constant close-ups of her face show her as grief-stricken, stunned and in total disbelief, in the days after President Kennedy is brutally assassinated. Her misery feels even worse with the eerie, but excellent background music. I barely ever talk about a film’s score in my reviews, but I have to mention it here. It’s an orchestral, creamy-like sound that makes the film so much more poignant, and even unnerving.
We feel every inch of Jackie’s pain, but there’s clear strength under her vulnerability. There wasn’t a moment where I thought she was going to let the government walk all over her when it came to organising her husband’s funeral. She stands up to the state and demands the funeral she wants.
Natalie Portman’s performance is exceptional. I always say that when an actor disappears into a character, they’ve hit the jackpot. Her impersonation is intelligent, so well-crafted and vocalised. Maybe her performance is more impressive than the film itself, but you won’t be able to take your eyes off her in any case.
Jackie is one of the better biopics out there. It’s arty, visually demanding and the framing narrative gives the film an original spin. Most biopics are just a straight story, so I’m glad director Pablo Larrain didn’t go down the same old route. Instead, he opts for a creative angle and it works wonders.
But like so many films based on real people, there is this need to present Jackie Kennedy as cleanly possible. I feel like she gets a bit of an easy ride, but Portman does a truly great job of bringing her to life.
The traumas and tragedies of life are addressed in a meaningful way. It’s surprisingly philosophical, ensuring viewers that there’s always hope for the future. I didn’t expect to start questioning the meaning of life after seeing this film. Now, I’m just thinking about the next good biopic to watch!
Director: Pablo Lorrain
Writer: Noah Oppenheim
Stars: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Billy Crudup
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Run Time: 100 min.
Have you seen Jackie? What’s the best biopic you’ve ever seen? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!