Jackie: Powerhouse Portman Performance in Beautiful, Broody Biopic
In attempting to focus intimately on one of the most admired and respected (and fashionable) First Ladies the world has come to know, Jackie is not as comprehensive or as wide-ranging of a biopic that some might expect. In fact, it’s not a biopic at all, but a study of the immediate aftermath of JFK’s assassination, through which it manages to find and portray the story of one woman’s struggle with grief.
Beginning a week after the assassination, the film opens with the leading lady preparing to sit down for an exclusive interview for Life Magazine with reporter, Theodore White (Crudup) at the Kennedy family compound Massachusetts. Cautious and guarded about, Jackie begins to slowly share and reveal her own and very personal account of that fateful day in Dallas, Texas on November 21st 1963.
Hoping to shed some light and imprint an idea that would eventually define her late husband’s legacy, the interview at the lavish seaside residence serves as the focal point of the movie. From there, the story travels back-and-forth in time with the First Lady recounting her famous tour of the White House for TV from the year before, as well as portraying her relationships with loyal assistant, Nancy Tuckerman (Gerwig) and brother-in-law, Bobby Kennedy (Sarsgaard).
Brought to life by a melancholic Mica Levi score and meticulous direction from Chilean director, Pablo Larrain, the story rests with Jackie, who is barely off-screen throughout the entire film, with the story portraying her fragmented psyche through an endless series of beautifully-constructed shots and an abundant array of close-ups which at times can come across as almost too invasive to bear.
Through it all, Portman’s mesmerisingly beautiful and fiercely committed performance never flinches with the award-winning actress embracing the mystery, elegance and unyielding strength of her character with arms wide open; from her accent to her dancer-like posture, Portman brings a quiet power to the screen.
While the movie may not sit well with those looking for perhaps a more conventional Hollywood approach to biopics, it is worth seeing for Ms. Portman’s outstanding performance alone.