Film Review: Jackie (2016)

Jackie is a recount of the assassination of John F. Kennedy through the eyes of Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman). In this documentary-esque film helmed by Pablo Larraín showed Jackie Kennedy’s side of the story and how she coped with the infamous tragedy.

This is a typical Oscar bait film: A biopic, atmospheric cinematography, and haunting score. What makes Jackie worth everyone’s time and attention is the acting. This film is a masterclass for acting. Lead by Natalie Portman together with John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup, they portrayed their roles and they did it phenomenally. Their acting was subtle but the emotions and humanity were present in their little movements and small glances.

Natalie Portman’s performance in Jackie rivals her performance in Black Swan. Portman transformed to Jackie Kennedy and she did it with accuracy. For an international viewer who is not familiar with the Kennedy family and Jackie herself, I did not know if that was how Jackie Kennedy talked, moved and walked. Due to my curiosity, I watched the White House Tour on YouTube and I listened to her talk for a solid 3 minutes. After that, I put on Jackie and I was floored by the similarity of the way Portman spoke and the real Jackie Kennedy’s way of speaking. Portman got the elegance and softness of Jackie’s voice and it was chilling to witness an actress change to someone completely different.

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Jackie is Natalie Portman’s film from beginning to end. She showed an image of a woman who was a mother, wife, and a widower. Few notable moments that showed her phenomenal acting were the one when she was wiping the blood off her face while sobbing uncontrollably and during the shower scene when it was clear to the audience that she is at the point of breaking down. Portman showed the strength and invulnerability of Jackie Kennedy during a point when her life and her family was vulnerable. It was like looking at a steel wall because she was so impenetrable.

And the iconic pink suit of course was highlighted in this film. The haunting image of a blooded suit that Jackie wore the entire day was so chilling. She held her chin up high and she paraded with the suit and made everyone know of the viciousness and the violence of that situation. Portman hit all the right notes, from the lifeless eyes, blank face, and the look of defiance and defeat at the same time.

During the entire duration of this film, Natalie Portman was nowhere to be seen, it was just Jackie Kennedy on the screen.

As for the direction and writing, the film was watchable and it is above average, even. It was not groundbreaking, though. It was well crafted but you know every beat of the film and there was nothing new that was offered.

The cinematography however was beautiful. Jackie is visually stunning and the way the film was shot was fitting for its story. This film is a recount of JFK’s assassination told by his wife, Jackie Kennedy, so the feeling of being a documentary is fine for this one. A lot of people might be put off by the cinematography and how almost everything is just a center shot and symmetrical but personally, it appealed to my taste.

Additionally, the film as a whole felt and looked like the 1960s thanks to the production design and cinematography. It was so atmospheric that there were some shots that were hard to pinpoint if that was the use of preexisting footage or if they really shot it. They really got the feeling of being vintage and this was an important element since they were trying to recreate a time in history.

And since this film revolves around a historic event, they also showed the actual assassination of JFK. The way they showed the assassination was terrifying and chilling. Seeing everything unfold, from the first shot to the fatal shot to Jackie’s reaction. Larraín was bold to show Jackie’s action after the shot – the one where she was at the trunk of the limousine. The image was bloody and it was horrifying. They showed how Jackie tried to pick up the scattered brains of JFK and that couple of seconds were one of the horrifying images shown in the film.

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Jackie is a well-acted and well-shot film. Though the writing may be weak at some points, the acting was strong and top notch. The Jackie team really got the atmosphere of the tragedy during that time. The authenticity of the film was heightened by the cinematography, production and costume design. Natalie Portman shined as Jackie Kennedy and she was stellar in this film.

Jackie Kennedy was in the center of the assassination, Natalie Portman is the center of this film.

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