Raw, intimate and highly emotional, “Jackie” is Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s English language feature debut. The biopic about the former First Lady is anchored by its star Natalie Portman, who gives a powerful and subtly complex performance as former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the days after the sudden death of her husband.
While the film centres around the assassination of JFK, Larrain and scribe Noah Oppenheim are concerned entirely with his wife. In fact, Casper Phillipson (the actor who plays President Kennedy with uncanny physical resemblance) gets mere minutes, if that, of screen time. “Jackie” is a character portrait to its core, concerned with the complexities of the character as First Lady, as a woman, as the myth she has become.
Jackie herself is fragile but commanding, she’s devastated yet composed, impetuous but measured. It’s a testament to Portman’s outstanding performance that we see the careful calculation behind every action and reaction that the (now former) First Lady makes, even in her time of mourning. She knows how she should act as First Lady, even if it’s not how she would naturally react as a grieving wife.
At times, “Jackie” is utterly electrifying. Mica Levi’s score is stirring, a string piece so full of sorrow that it would be fitting in a horror film. Unfortunately, however, there are also times when the film lags. It’s hard to pin down exactly why the magic is lost at times – indeed it often returns as quickly as it left. Certainly the film is not always easy to watch. Just as Jackie herself is contradictory, the film too is intimate yet severe, but always powerful.