REVIEWS

TIFF 2016: Natalie Portman is Exceptional in Pablo Larraín's 'Jackie'

by
September 18, 2016

Jackie Review

It's never a good time to lose anyone close to you and even worse when the whole world is watching. Every move is watched and scrutinized regardless of context and it's up to you to put your personal feelings aside and keep moving forward. The astounding new film Jackie focuses on one of the biggest icons of class and style in America's history, Jackie Kennedy, and as played by a never-better Natalie Portman we witness the private grief that is human but rarely seen in public. Jackie is the English-language debut of Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín (of No, The Club and this year's Neruda) and as the story begins we are dropped right in the middle of the chaotic aftermath following JFK's assassination on November 22, 1963.

Jackie Kennedy is still in a daze wandering the empty halls of the White House and it hasn't even sunk in yet that her young children are unaware of their father's death. The raw intensity of grief takes a backseat to an anxious Lyndon B. Johnson waiting in the wings to be sworn into office proving that regardless of tragedy it's still politics as usual. Portman plays Jackie Kennedy in these early scenes with a quiet intensity and frustration, everything we need to know is shown on her face and not told through words. It's a refreshing show of trust from director Larraín and screenwriter Noah Oppenheim, something that forces the viewer to dig deep to understand this former First Lady's complex emotions.

The film also jumps between two seminal portraits in Kennedy's life, the first is a television special where she gives America a grand tour of the White House in happier times and the second is a magazine exclusive handed to a stunned reporter (played by Billy Crudup) a week after JFK's funeral. The transition in tone juxtaposes the narrative, and Portman's transition between glamorous and destructive is breathtaking to watch. It also shines a light on how the public expects certain things from their political figures. The complicated feelings of grief that accompany any loss are not allowed to be examined nationwide unless they serve the public's perception of who a person is.

The blunt transition in power between the Kennedys and incoming successive president Johnson, played by Richard E. Grant, makes for some of Jackie's strongest scenes as they show the First Lady emotionally and psychologically naked with nothing to lose. Once an icon of glamour and taste, Mrs. Kennedy throws herself into a new realm by planning JFK's funeral and even opening up to equally doomed brother-in-law Bobby Kennedy (played by Peter Sarsgaard). The change in character signals an acceptance and harsh new reality for the wounded Jackie, something that she desperately seeks.

Pablo Larraín's Jackie is a complex and effective political portrait anchored by a towering performance from Natalie Portman. She is front-and-center for most of the film and the story simply doesn't work without her performing so exceptionally. The film was recently bought and scheduled for year-end release so there's no doubt in the studio's confidence, placing Portman at the head of the Oscar race. Most moviegoers will be floored with this unconventional biopic as it towers over the rest as one of the best films of the year.

Marco's TIFF Rating: A
Follow Marco on Twitter - @BigDumbMale

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  • DAVIDPD
    Stunningly happy with this review. // I was listening to a podcast talking about the JFK assassination and happened to watch the video of the event. I'll saw that what Jackie saw done to her husband was an unforgivable thing.
  • Will we know one day who killed Kennedy?
  • Yeah...Lee Harvey Oswald...You've solved the enigma with three small words. ;D And whoever thinks that Iraq was attacked for oil and other geopolitical goals is probably a McDonalds hater.
    • InNolanWeTrust
      It's not a conspiracy theory that the war in Iraq was about oil and our strategic interests in the area.
      • Well, it's not the opinion of thousand deniers. Just like you on other matters... So you really think that this LHO could have headshot a mobile target with an old rifle that easy, where many marksmen failed with more sophisticated guns during the reconstitution? and I'm not even bringing the magic bullet paradox.
        • Bo
          Don't go there, tarek. It frightens people who really think Oswald was the lone killer. The government has spun this thing until the cows come home with this commission and that to soothe the frightened masses from having to deal with the fact that the world is a dark and sometimes very evil place. Better to give them a sugar-coated, simple and easy to understand story to keep them in place and in line. They also really don't want to know the truth, so that makes all this easier to do. Just look how many Americans are calling for Snowden's head. No matter that it's been proven what he revealed about what the government was doing was illegal. Or that what he did in no way harmed national security. Or that actual reforms have resulted in Congress because of his courageous acts. He should be pardoned and treated like a hero, but the herd mentality masses are once again being led by the nose by the government and are calling for his head. Dark, heavy stuff, man.
          • InNolanWeTrust
            It has less to do with fear and more to do with zero evidence. I'm an atheist for a reason...I like this thing called facts 😉
          • Bo
            Nothing wrong with the facts. Why this labeling of yourself? So you're an atheist. What does that do for your ego? How can one be someone who doesn't believe in the very thing they say they don't believe in? If God doesn't exist how can one therefore not believe in God who doesn't exist? Hmmmmmm...just playing around with you, man. I have to agree about the God thing in that I believe nothing and in nothing. But let's get back to the facts you hold so dear. What facts? How do you receive such facts? Do you believe what you read? What 'they' present to you as these 'facts'? I can assume that these facts that you so believe in regarding Oswald you didn't personally gather, so you must believe something that you read. Interesting, but it can't hold up because if you weren't there then how can you know? Not giving you a hard time here. I find you and your posts of interest as I do the content of them. Having said that, you come across as an intelligent person so surely you realize that the world isn't as it seems. Right? Like this whole Oswald being the only person involved in killing Kennedy. I don't really know what happened or who was involved, but I certainly don't believe these 'facts' that were laid out by the government for the consumption of the masses to soothe their fears. The masses are always afraid and the powers that be are constantly at work attempting to soothe them of those fears. Wouldn't you agree? Do you also think they should hang Snowden out to dry? Cheers!
          • InNolanWeTrust
            Your tin foil hat needs adjustment.
          • Bo
            Well, man...you're ignorance, immaturity, delusion and insecure need to put someone down has made it impossible for me to waste my time attempting to converse any further with you. Pity, but on the positive side, this post/reply from you has made my point. I'll no further read anything from you directed to me and will simply delete it. Grow up and act like a man.
          • InNolanWeTrust
            What prescription medications do you take?
          • I know Bo. Dictators and autoritarian regimes know it well. That's how they last so long. Mass manipulation... Tell them what they want to hear.
          • Bo
            Same with all governments. Orwell said it all pretty well in his 1984. Dictators and authoritarian regimes for sure. America does a pretty good job of it too. Just look at all the masses so upset because some football player won't stand up for the national anthem. See how programmed and manipulated they are? I was in the military and I've had to confront 'citizen's about this nonsense that we are being disrespected by people not standing for some silly and meaningless song. I have to remind them that I I, ion fact don't feel disrespected and to stop speaking for me and how I feel. I also have to remind them that I did my time so that people could exercise their freedom of choice. To stand or not stand as this is supposed to be a free country. It's just fear again. People are so programmed to think and feel the way they do that when someone doesn't behave like a good sheep they get very frightened and upset...and dangerous!...lol...Cheers!
          • "democratic" regimes are more dangerous, because they use insidious ways. Isn't democracy the art of making people believe that they are the real power? ;D
          • Bo
            Excellent, tarek! Very, very well said. And the truth. It's power by mesmerization. People in a democratic regime are so mesmerized and hypnotized into such stupors it's quite frightening if you really contemplate it. Scary, scary stuff. Good post, tarek. Thanks, man. Hard to find others who have such intelligent and correct perceptions such as those that you just stated. It's actually comforting to hear in these crazy and insane times.

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