Starring Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, and Billy Crudup
Directed by Pablo Larraín
Told in a series of flashbacks as Jackie speaks to a journalist (Billy Crudup) in the weeks shortly following the assassination, screenwriter Noah Oppenheim's film jumps back and forth in time within those flashbacks as we witness the First Lady's immediate reactions to her husband's death, her preparation for her husband's funeral as she fights her brother-in-law Robert Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) over the political ramifications of the optics of her husband's funeral, and her grappling with her religious faith with her priest (John Hurt) in the aftermath of the horrific event afflicted upon her, her children, and her country.
Through it all and at the center of everything is Natalie Portman's performance as Jackie. Her steely demeanor as Jackie emotes a strength that is admirable and creates an all the more emotional experience when the rigid exterior cracks when the beleaguered widow is finally able to break down behind closed doors and fully mourn her husband's death. Director Larraín rarely strays away from Portman's face for more than a minute or two and this almost-claustrophobic atmosphere pulls the viewer in to Jackie's plight, latching on to her strength and viscerally reacting to her private emotional moments. Portman is fantastic here and not just in a mimicry way -- in fact, I won't judge her in that way at all as I'm admittedly not overly familiar with Jackie Kennedy's mannerisms and vocal inflections. She is the reason this film works.
As I said initially, the film is a bit of a tough go story-wise. There's not much plot here and that does cause some issues in terms of pacing and holding one's interest. Still, the visually appealing film -- the costumes, set design, and cinematography are beautiful -- is worth a watch if the notion of the story appeals to you in the slightest. Granted, we may not know how "true" this piece is, but it still paints a vividly sad portrayal of grief and death that never once feels exploitative.
The RyMickey Rating: B