review by Bobby Blakey
I love a good biography film especially when it is dealing with a new aspect of the one of a historical part of our nation’s history. The Kennedy name is one that everyone knows whether they know a lot about everything they did. Sadly the most well-known piece of history of them all is the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas. With the new film Jackie, Natalie Portman steps into the prolific role of Jacqueline Kennedy, but does she bring that something special that made her unique to make this film work or should it have been impeached from the get go?
Jackie follows one the most important and tragic moments in American history, seen through the eyes of the iconic First Lady, then Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and places us in her world during the days immediately following her husband's assassination. Known for her extraordinary dignity and poise, here we see a psychological portrait of the First Lady as she struggles to maintain her husband's legacy and the world of "Camelot" that they created and loved so well. The film features a great cast including Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup, John Hurt, Great Gerwig, Richard E. Grant, John Carroll Lynch, Beth Grant, and Max Casella, but the film as a whole is a bit of hit and miss. Director Pablo Larrain took an interesting artsy approach to tell this story that is pretty effective, but never fully allows you invest in the gravity of emotions that Jackie is going through. This has nothing to do with Portman, who is brilliant in the role and offers up easily the best performance of career since Black Swan. She brings an uncomfortable innocence to the role and really captures many of the iconic moments of the famed first lady.
The rest of the cast shine as well, but this is Portman’s show all the way. Where the film struggles isn’t in performances, but structure and overall story. There are two parts to this film with part being an interview that serves as the catalyst to tell the rest of the story. While this is an interesting approach it never lets you get fully invested before hopping to another section. There are so many emotional places she had to be going through during this time in her life outside of just the loss of her husband and I am sure you could never capture all of it in one film, but it would have been nice to get to spend more time in some of these moments than we actually got. This could be me being picky because I would have preferred to get a more straight forward story than the direction they went.
In the end this is one of those films that offers up some great performances including the brilliance or Portman wrapped in a film that won’t work for everyone. The pacing is a bit slow and as mentioned never plants firmly enough for the effect it deserves, but still brings forth some great information about the time and above all else is worth checking out for Portman’s performance alone.