The biopic is a staple of the movie awards season. Critics and fans flock to see the real life stories of our historical figures both good and bad portrayed on the big screen. This Oscar season is no exception with the release of Jackie directed by Pablo Larraín and staring Oscar winner Natalie Portman as the late former first lady Jackie Kennedy. Most biopic films examine the famous subject’s entire life, but Jackie focuses on the devastating event in Dallas and the days after with her coming to grips with her husband John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Rather than starting at the beginning of Jackie Kennedy’s life before her days of redecorating the White House to her liking, Jackie actually begins after that dark day in Dallas with Jackie grieving in seclusion. The film is told through a series of flashbacks with Jackie relaying her side of the story to a journalist played by Billy Crudup who is looking for answers as to what happened behind the scenes. The film is quite sad at times as you get an almost voyeuristic look at a grieving widow who literally loses everything from her husband, home and the title of First Lady in a matter of moments once the gun had been fired.
Jackie is definitely a depressing watch as you see life moving on in the White House without her, but you will keep your eyes glued to the screen due to the mesmerizing performance of Natalie Portman as a woman looking to preserve her husband’s legacy while trying to be a good mother to her children who are wondering why Daddy isn’t coming home. Portman’s interpretation of Jackie Kennedy is not one of perfection like most historians like to depict, but rather one of sadness and at times selfish and egotistical as the first lady isn’t quite ready to let go of the power she’s wielding after her husband’s demise. The audience gets many different shades of the first lady which makes for a very interesting examination of the mental state she was in before and after the bullets made contact with JFK.
Portman’s performance coupled with an eerily beautiful musical score makes Jackie a unique look at an event in American History we are all too familiar with. Director Pablo Larraín puts you right into vehicle during the motorcade showing the horror this woman witnessed on what she thought would just be another one of her many routine public appearances. The story doesn’t shy away from showing how cold the world can feel once you are deemed unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Portman owns the role of the first lady in Jackie and will surely receive major Oscar attention when the time comes for handing out the awards.
Overall, I give Jackie 3.25 out of 4 stars thanks to the stellar work of Natalie Portman.
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