REVIEW: Superb Acting From Portman Creates A Haunting Portrait Of American Tragedy In ‘Jackie’

Pablo Larrain directs and Natalie Portman stars as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in this in depth look at one of America’s darkest days and the aftermath.

The picture largely takes place in the days after the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, but other time periods are explored, too. While a majority of the picture shows Jackie planning the funeral in the days after the assassination as well her conversations about the events with others, the movie also shows the First Lady’s famous TV tour of the White House and when the Kennedys first arrived in Texas.

As the film unravels, it explores Jackie needing to be a mother, continue being a public figure and take efforts to preserve her husbands legacy.

“Jackie” is a very layered feature, taking on subjects such as shock, grief, politics and legacies. As the title suggests, these topics are all shown through the eyes of Jackie and as a result, the audience gets a very deep and intense look at just what she was going through.

While this ultimately makes for a very moving and interesting character study, though, the story structure didn’t always work. At some points, the flashbacks where Jackie reflects on what happened are well placed, but at others, the transitions aren’t as seamless.

Despite this issue, though, the film as a whole largely stays on point thanks to the masterful acting from Portman, who gives the best performance of her career. Portman takes on the monumental task of portraying the famous first lady, who of course was distinctly soft-spoken and had a unique accent, and knocks it out of the park. Additionally, Portman pulls off having the same mannerisms and facial expressions that Kennedy was known for.

More noticeable than these aspects, though, was how well Portman was able to capture the emotions of such a legendary figure. As the film takes audiences behind the scenes of that event, it explores how Jackie had to balance her grief, her trauma from what she witnessed and also her resolve in ensuring the Kennedy legacy. All of this is convincingly portrayed by Portman, from scenes where she has to demand what she wants during the funeral to just her expressions at the ceremony.

Unfortunately, the supporting cast gives less than memorable performances. Peter Sarsgaard, who plays Bobby Kennedy, gives a rather forgettable performance and doesn’t even make much of an attempt to sound like the president’s brother. John Carroll Lynch, meanwhile, wasn’t the best Lyndon B Johnson, at least when compared to other actors who’ve portrayed the former president such as Tom Wilkinson in “Selma.”

Making up for some of the movie’s flaws, though, along with Portman’s Oscar-worthy performance, was how the film was put together by Larrain and cinematographer Stephane Fontaine. The camera angles and different shots create unforgettable imagery, from the intense assassination sequence to the harrowing moment where Jackie takes off the blood stained clothing and especially the scenes of the funeral itself, paint a haunting picture.

The movie also had superb lighting and the filmmakers captured different colors through the lens for different scenes. For example, for scenes taking place before the assassination, there’s more color and vibrancy and in the time after there’s much more dreary, dull and grey colors. “Jackie” also had moments where the film appeared somewhat grainy and it fit rather well, as it made it more real.

“Jackie” isn’t a perfect movie, as it does have some issues here and there. However, it does feature a perfect performance and the imagery on display is vivid and sticks with a person. 4.3 out of 5.

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Author: Matthew Liedke

My name is Matthew Liedke. I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, but I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I now write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead where I studied journalism and film. Outside of film, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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