By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Natalie Portman is probably your de facto leader in the Best Actress race, playing Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy, so you know what that means.
Tom Hooper sporting a raging boner somewhere.
Hold your horses, though, because while, yes, this film is about Jackie Kennedy in the worst period of her life, from the assassination of her husband to his burial and the reinterment of her two lost children alongside him, this ain’t your daddy’s Oscar-gobbling biopic.
If Terrence Malick is Robert Frost, this is Pablo Larrain and Stephane Fontaine as Dante Alighieri- the same poetic, swooping, low-angle, closeup-heavy shooting style identifiable as Malick twisted as expertly and surely by this director-cinematographer team as composer Micah Levi twisted Camelot into her aural descent into madness of a score. This is a beautifully put together film bent to depict the harrowing psyche of a woman whose golden child husband’s brains spilled across her lap while a nation watched.
Doesn’t complement the pink, you see.
Portman is spectacular, featuring in every scene that isn’t straight historical footage (Larrain, as in No, blends his and contemporary footage seamlessly when he doesn’t set them off each other spectacularly like in the motorcade scene with a Super 8 crowd in 2.5 dimensions reflected across Jackie’s face watching them through the car window), and riveting in all of them. She nails Jackie Kennedy’s mannerisms and unique affected intonations and accent, but this isn’t mimicry, this is just window-dressing for character- a woman who claims to eschew fame but who certainly knew how to bend it to her own wishes and desires, a woman content to let the world think her the absent-minded debutante while cannily molding and controlling her image, but also a woman who perhaps doubted the efficacy of that control, and what kind of legacy it would leave her in the end.
Larrain layers his story, starting with a post-funeral canny interviewee Jackie, with a lit cigarette and a quick quip for a clearly credulous reporter Billy Crudup. (He’s also excellent- all of these supporting performances are, especially Peter Sarsgaard as the ill-fated Bobby Kennedy, Greta Gerwig as Jackie’s empathetic right hand woman, and a quivering John Hurt as an Irish priest espousing the most Christian message you’re liable to hear in a movie theater this year- more Malick for you). But there’s also the unvarnished, blood-spotted, clearly in shock Jackie immediately post-shooting, and the more timid Jackie of her famous White House tour television program, perhaps itself a construction or calculation, and the furious Jackie trying on all her glamorous dresses and getting drunk as she starts to pack away her once legendarily charmed life, lost in an instant. There’s layers and layers to peel back of this woman, and no guarantee we’ll like what we find in the center. But man, what layers.
If you thought The Return of the King was bad, then just wait. Jackie‘s all endings, almost from the beginning. This constant decelerating feeling can wear, not to mention the dour subject matter, of course. This is a slog, almost certainly entirely by design.
Jackie is no biopic you’ve seen- a darkly lyrical nightmare of an examination of the many facets of Jackie Kennedy through the prism of the worst ten days of her life.
Jackie (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for smoking
Take a Drink: whenever Jackie does
Take a Drink: for every change to the funeral arrangements
Take a Drink: whenever the White House tour program is flashed back to
Take a Drink: for period footage seamlessly incorporated into the film
Do a Shot: for the shot