'Jackie' film review: Portman captivates in a hypnotic look at grief, loss
Natalie Portman brilliantly balances regal poise and emotional devastation in the biographical drama"Jackie" (screened during AFI FEST 2016 and opens in additional cities Dec. 16). Her awards-caliber performance is constantly on the razor's edge between mania and grace.
In short: Jacqueline Kennedy (Portman) grieves her husband's assassination and examines his legacy. Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Carroll Lynch and Billy Crudup also star.
"Jackie" is an absolute showcase for Portman, who brilliantly captivates in this character study of mourning and grief. While the film bounces between pivotal points in Jackie Kennedy's life - from her famous "A Tour of the White House" to that fateful day in Dallas as well as a reflective magazine interview just days after JFK's assassination - Portman absolutely embodies the Jackie of that moment. She is elegant during her televised White House tour, she is absolutely overwhelmed in the immediacy of her husband's murder and she is thoughtful in her conversation with a reporter. Portman gives one of the single best performances of 2016 in this hypnotic and penetrating portrait of a woman who once lived in Camelot.
Director Pablo Larraín's tone poem does not attempt to make a definitive statement or critique of Jackie Kennedy. While light on traditional plot points, "Jackie" embraces the emotional chaos, isolation and near-crippling shock the first lady endured in the aftermath of the assassination. This film is best when it allows its moments to breath - be it the emotionally distraught first lady with a thousand yard stare while wearing a bloody Chanel dress or chain smoking as she recounts the assassination in grisly detail. While arguably very little happens in the way of classic plot structure, "Jackie" is an immersion in emotional trauma.
Portman deserves every accolade for her performance, but the film's editing, cinematography, production design and score cannot be overlooked. This beautifully shot film has a Emmanuel Lubezki ("Tree of Life," "The Revenant") look and austerity to it. The score infuses a subtle and unrelenting chaotic undertone, effectively establishing a tone much in the way Trent Reznor did for "The Social Network." The editing seamlessly allows "Jackie" to jump between different points in her life without ever feeling jarring or forced.
Final verdict: "Jackie" is a stark, beautifully composed and brilliantly edited psychological drama. Portman has claimed her place among the top Best Actress contenders of the year.
"Jackie" opens in select cities Dec. 2 and expands to additional cities beginning Dec. 16. This biographical drama has a running time of 99 minutes and is rated R for brief strong violence and some language.