‘Jackie’ Review: A Portrait of a Tragic Event in History

Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc

There will be great progress. There will be other great presidents. […] But there won’t be another Camelot. Not another Camelot.

The first time I watched Jackie was very recently and (like all of my favorite films) it completely affected me. Watching this film not only moved me but made me experience a visceral feeling of loss, pain, trauma, and suffering which is reflected in Natalie Portman’s performance of Jackie Kennedy. Jackie is a glorious film, intricate and effortless in its portrayal of a tragic moment in time. It is a portrait of one of the most harrowing tragedies in American history: the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, seen from the perspective of his wife. It is a film that deals with trauma and loss in a way that does not feel exploitative or exaggerated. Rather, it shines a light not on the ubiquitous man whom everyone knew but on the woman beside him.

Portman in Jackie. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc

Don’t let it be forgot, that for one brief, shining moment there was a Camelot.

Portman is the obvious standout of the film, giving arguably the greatest performance of her career. She evokes the spirit of Jackie Kennedy in a way that feels true to the person, yet somehow finds a way to make it her own version. Her portrayal of Jackie is raw and unwavering, with all of Jackie’s intricate details, from the way she sounded to her mannerisms. The performance is astounding and beautiful to behold, especially considering Jackie Kennedy was (understandably) a difficult woman to unravel.

Portman in Jackie. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc

Pablo Larraín’s direction is simple yet effective. He rarely moves the camera for dramatic effect or to manipulate, but rather keeps the camera still and simply and intimately frames Jackie both in the spotlight and in the quieter moments when she is by herself and suffering. Noah Oppenheim’s writing is powerful and incredibly poetic. Mica Levi’s score underscores the heaviness and tragedy of the film with heavy, long and drawn out violin sounds, setting the tone of melancholy. The cinematography (by Stéphane Fontaine) is stunning and captivating. It captures the melancholic tone of the film through its dark greys and blue tones. The film being shot 16mm also gives it a grainy texture which further illustrates the dark, sad atmosphere while echoing the period in which it is set.

Casper Phillipson, Portman and Peter Sarsgaard in Jackie. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc

Objects and artifacts last far longer than people, and they represent important ideas in history, identity, beauty.

Jackie is rare: an art house film that centers on a woman and depicts her with all of her flaws laid out. She is not perfect and perhaps does not try to be, but that strengthens her character (and similar female characters in the film), making her all the more intriguing and interesting. Jackie will certainly become a classic for not only being an exquisite piece of cinema but for providing a specific moment in history from the perspective of a woman. It is a film that certainly deserves your attention.


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