Release date: 20th January 2017/Watch the trailer here
Jackie is a welcome breath of fresh air in a swarm of recent Oscar-bait biopics, eschewing the more traditional formula in favour of a non-linear narrative, and steering clear of the parts of the story that its audience already knows. Taking place over the days that followed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson), Jackie is the lesser-told story of the First Lady herself, played – by now, famously – by Natalie Portman.
It’s hard to imagine an actress who could have better captured the grace and elegance of Jacqueline Kennedy than Portman. She fluidly cycles through the emotions that Jackie must have felt in the immediate aftermath of her husband’s murder, from pure, raw pain as she wipes away his blood from her face, to the far cooler facade she wore when talking to the media, attempting to define the legacy of the man she loved while still battling with her grief. The majority of the film centres around a conversation Jackie has with an unnamed journalist (Billy Crudup), an interview which she insists on editing herself, always determined to be in control of the very last detail. Through this conversation, the narrative of Jackie flashes backwards and forwards, from the moment the bullet entered her husband’s head (shown in painstakingly precise detail) to his funeral.
Something else that sets Jackie apart from its fellow biopics is the decision of director Pablo Larraín to give his film an eerie, almost horror movie-like feel to it, with the slightly grainy look of Stéphane Fontaine’s cinematography and a haunting score by composer Mica Levi. The score is just as much of its own character as Jackie herself, commanding the attention of the audience, demanding that we listen to its surreal, dreamlike sound, often laden with the sorrow that Jackie is heavy with.
The attention to detail in Jackie is incredible – not just in the cinematography and the score, but the production design and costumes, too. Jackie Kennedy was a fashion icon and her outfits played a large part of her character, so it’s appropriate that Portman’s performance is elevated by her costumes, each one meticulously recreated by designer Madeline Fontaine, right down to the famous pink Chanel suit that Jackie wore on the day of the assassination. Production designer Jean Rabasse has also gone to great lengths to ensure that the sets of Jackie are evocative of the era in which it takes place. The final effect, when all of the remarkably thorough work that took place both behind the camera and in front of it, from Portman and a strong supporting cast, is a beautiful one.
A beautiful exterior means little if there is nothing of value on the inside, however. Thankfully, that’s not the case with Jackie – although it falters occasionally, and it’s a strange enough film to surely be divisive among audiences, it offers an imaginative and intensely emotional portrait of one of the most famous women of the last century, making certain that her own legacy is more than just that of a widowed woman in a Chanel suit.