Under the direction of gifted Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain, Natalie Portman creates a dazzling cinematic portrait of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Read on…
On Nov. 22, 1963, when U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, terrified Jackie was at his side in the Dallas motorcade. Shortly afterward, interviewed by an unnamed journalist (Billy Crudup), she not only reveals her intimate version of what happened but also cleverly crafts the catchy “Camelot” concept of her husband’s brief tenure.
“Don’t let it be forgot, that for one brief shining moment, there was Camelot,” she quotes from JFK’s favorite Broadway musical, reviving the legend of King Arthur.
There are flashbacks to the former First Lady narrating a CBS-TV tour of the White House, pointing out her refurbishments, proudly pronouncing that none were paid for by taxpayers’ money. And much is made of how grieving Jackie micro-managed JFK’s funeral procession for maximum historical impact, patterning it after Abraham Lincoln’s.
“I’ve grown accustomed to a great divide between what people believe and what I know to be real,” she observes.
A secretive chain-smoker, self-conscious Jackie exhibited steely determination and sophisticated discretion, particularly when it came to her husband’s infidelities. So little is made of that, except for Jackie’s rueful observation, “Nothing’s ever mine to keep…”
Nor is there any mention of her subsequent re-marriage to Greek shipping billionaire Aristotle Onassis.
Superbly constructed by screenwriter Noah Oppenheim as an unsentimental character study, what’s most memorable is Natalie Portman’s authentic portrayal, a far cry from her Academy Award-winning ballerina in “Black Swan” (2010).
Replicating Jackie’s posture, walk and whispery voice, Portman’s stunning impersonation crosses the threshold of credibility, aided in no small measure by the bouffant hair style, glossy eye makeup and chic, meticulously reproduced wardrobe.
Director Pablo Larrain’s superb supporting cast includes Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy, Greta Gerwig as Jackie’s friend/aide Nancy Tuckerman, John Hurt as her Irish Catholic priest and Max Casella as LBJ’s loyalist Jack Valenti.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Jackie” is a solemn, mesmerizing 7, propelling Portman into serious Oscar contention.