If there was such a film that was made for Oscar-bait then this would be it. With a release date close to the ceremony for it to remain fresh in the Oscar Board’s memory, an Oscar-winner in the lead role and a theme steeped in American history, this film’s card has been marked. On top of all this, the USA have recently started a new chapter in their history under a new President, so Jackie has an added relevance and a felicitousness that may make the Oscar Board sit up and take notice.
Wow! I think that’s the soberest intro to a review I have ever written! Look at me throwing words like “felicitousness” around like I know what they mean!
Despite my best efforts, this film has a uniqueness that deserves a better intro than this.
Loosely based on an interview with Life Magazine’s Theodore H White, Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) recounts her life as the First Lady to a journalist (Billy Crudup), with the interview’s focus being on the days following her husband’s assassination.
Everyone I have spoken to about this film has not been impressed with it at all. I couldn’t disagree more, yet I can see the reasons why. This isn’t your standard biography and it doesn’t use the same old tropes to pull on your heart-strings. Everyone’s grief is their own and they deal with it however they see fit, and Jackie not only had to deal with the brutal murder of her husband that the whole world bore witness to, but she also had to grieve under a spotlight whilst having to adjust to the changes in the running of one of the most powerful countries in the world, which in turn would see her lose her home. I can’t begin to imagine how surreal that must have been for her, and if there is a template way to grieve then this would surely not apply to her. This has been reflected in every aspect of the way this film has been made, from the jarring score to the disjointed editing where scenes are not in the correct order or even in continuity. This must have been how her life was: chaotic, incomprehensible, unsettling and dreamlike. The film doesn’t rely on melodrama to force us to feel sorry for Jackie; it lets us come to our own conclusions and I think the inventive way in which this film has been constructed gives us a glimpse of how confounded and bewildered Jackie must have felt at a time of such tragic loss in extraordinary circumstances. I haven’t even mentioned the stunning portrayal of Jackie by Natalie Portman. Her interpretation of a famous figure in American history is flawless. I always find no matter how good an actor the A-lister is, their performance will always be overshadowed by their familiarity. Portman shakes off her famous persona and transforms into Jackie Kennedy with an effortlessness that does her a disservice for the amount of work she must have put in to perfect her portrayal. Her performance complements the film’s theme and approach to this story with aplomb, and I cannot think of anyone better for the lead. I would be shocked if she didn’t win the Oscar for Best Actress. I also admire the way the film is shot, with most of it being from a slightly askew point-of-view and very much within close quarters. You feel like you are there amongst the actors and this gives it an intimacy that is rarely experienced with a biopic.
For me, there aren’t many negatives, but the jarring way in which the film has been made will divide audiences. It’s a short film but it very occasionally suffers with a slow pace, and there are a few times when it appears to be gearing up to end and then goes on for a few more minutes, which took me out of the film each time.
Definitely a recommendation from me, but probably a one-time-only watch.