Biopics about President’s of the United States are extremely heavy material. Discussing the inner workings of the leader of the Free World is not an easy project. However, while the First Lady is often the main partner by the President’s side, it’s not as often we see biopics based on them. Jackie, which follows Jacqueline Kennedy, bucks the traditional Biopic route by not looking at the entire time of one’s life, but rather focuses on the days after one of the most heartbreaking and devastating moments of her life. Biopics don’t come any more intrusive and difficult than this.
Natalie Portman gives one of the most consistent and powerful performances of her career as Jacqueline Kennedy, who sat next to her husband John F. Kennedy as he was assassinated in a motorcade in Dallas in 1963. What follows are the most emotional and vulnerable days of her life as she copes with an unbelievable loss while the cameras continually film her every move. Poised and controlled becomes a veneer to the public that increasingly becomes hard to contain. How does one understand such madness and cruelty in the world when they stand at the top?
It’s both a blessing and a curse on the movie that Natalie Portman dominates every frame of this film. She has perfected a cadence in her voice, and holds herself in a very confident way. It’s a testament to her skills that when she breaks down, these attributes don’t fade away, but rather are expanded upon with added clarity to her craft. It’s such a dominating performance that the cavalcade of supporting actors can’t keep up. Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup and even the late John Hurt can’t possibly take the camera away from Portman. It’s due to this emphasis that the film can be extremely taxing on the viewer. The camera isn’t going to pan away when it gets difficult. You are in for the long haul.
However, Natalie Portman has one trick up her sleeve and that’s the Director Pablo Larrain, whose intimate shooting style really helps transcend her performance. The camera is focused on her face for the majority of the film. She can’t look away, and it can be nauseating to be so close up to a woman experiencing such grief. The only time the camera backs away is when it feels like the media is watching her. It’s a stylistic choice and separates it from the rest of the pack, however it really comes across as a director demanding to be noticed. Rather than letting the film speak via it’s script, the Director feels intrusive to the scene. A more skilled director would be unafraid to step back and let the film speak for itself.
The other potentially polarizing element of the film is the score by Mica Levi, who creates a truly uncomfortable and jarring score that feels detached from the film it’s in. The film feels grand yet the score feels relatively horrific. This may come across as a slight but at the same time I was transfixed by its use. It’s something that stayed with me long after the credits rolled.
Jackie is an experimental type of Biopic, more concerned with the minutiae of the harrowing moments of Jacqueline’s life than as an over reaching character piece. Director Pablo Larrain has a clear style that can become overbearing at times, but coupled with the powerhouse performance of Natalie Portman, Jackie becomes a biopic worthy of a watch. A truly different Oscar film.
Score – 75/100
Jackie is available now on Digital Download, DVD and Blu-Ray. Check the Entertainment One website for more information.