Movie Review: Jackie (2016)

Posted: April 23, 2017 in Drama
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After her husband John F. Kennedy , (Caspar Phillipson) has been assassinated, First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) reflects on events before the assassination, like her tour of the refurbished White House,  and the time during the actual assassination.  To unburden her guilt and mourning Jackie talks to her brother-in-law Bobby, (Peter Sarsgaard) a reporter, (Billy Crudup) and a priest. (John Hurt) She simultaneously tries to protect her husband’s legacy, even as new President Lyndon Baines Johnson (John Carroll Lynch) has been sworn in, and is waiting to move in to the White House.  Jackie wants a public procession to precede her husband’s funeral, but people around her are concerned that there is a danger presented by a public procession.  Who wins that argument?

Jackie is not a flattering portrait of Jackie Kennedy.  On the contrary, Jackie Kennedy is portrayed as a cold, calculating, conniving person who works hard to cultivate a public persona which is much different from her private persona.  She is shown drinking heavily, chain-smoking, and also trying to censor those things from the reporter trying to cover her. The film also makes at least one outlandish claim, but as usual with these pseudo factual biopics, the filmmakers will claim poetic license.  It will be up to the viewer to determine what the truth is, if he or she chooses to do so.

Natalie Portman overdoes her role as Jackie Kennedy, she tries to do Mrs. Kennedy’s voice, and sometimes the voice overwhelms the performance itself.  She does a good job of conveying the pain of a widow who has to grieve in public, but the film version of Jackie Kennedy is so unlikeable that it’s difficult to appreciate Portman’s performance.  Peter Sarsgaard is awful as Bobby Kennedy, he doesn’t try to do Kennedy’s voice, so his own voice, which grates on my ears is on full display here.  It’s a small role, and I’m grateful for that.

Pablo Larrain is well known in Chile for his violent and aggressive portrayals of life in Chile Thankfully, the movie is relatively short, 1 hour and 40 minutes, but it’s still packed with arthouse techniques.  Larrain tries all kind of visual tricks close-ups, dramatic music, flashbacks, and fantasy sequences, to turn up the intensity, but the story of the President Kennedy’s assassination and its aftermath,  doesn’t need tricks to make it intense.

Jackie: Hijacked by overzealous acting and directing.

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