‘Jackie’ presents a non-chronological recount of the days following the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson) from the perspective of his widow, Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy (Natalie Portman). The film is framed with an exclusive interview given by Jackie to an unnamed journalist (Billy Crudup). Later in the film, her conversation with an unnamed priest (John Hurt) also frame some scenes and give insight into her psyche.
The choice to present the story non-chronologically allows us to really focus on Jackie rather than recreating historical events. After all, people know what happened. It is the most recent assassination of a US President in history which still generates conversations and conspiracy theories. What the film did right is to delve inside Jackie’s mind rather than showing us what’s around her.
We get an extremely intimate portrayal of Jackie as she goes through grief and loss. It was a major transition for her as she not only lost her husband but also had to tell their children that their father is gone, not to mention preparing for his funeral and moving out of the White House. Unsurprisingly, Jackie is on nearly every scene of the film.
Therefore, the success of the film hinges on Natalie Portman’s performance of the titular character. To our relief, the character is excellently played by the talented actress, who emulated Jackie’s way of speaking very well. She also masterfully showed the two different but connected sides of Jackie: her real self in private versus her public persona as the First Lady. Jackie’s anguish, dignity, and poise are on point. This would likely become one of Portman’s most memorable roles.
Other actors also gave stellar performances, although they do not have as much screentime. Peter Saarsgard as Bobby Kennedy and Greta Gerwig as Nancy Tuckerman are some of the more prominently featured roles, who were both excellent. The casting of Caspar Phillipson as JFK is genius. He is seen very little until towards the end of the film, and it was shocking to see him. His resemblance to JFK is uncanny.
The cinematography was well-done throughout, obviously preferring a lot of close-ups of Jackie. The recreation of the 1962 televised tour of the White House and the incorporation of a few short actual footage are nice touches to the film. The production design of the film is impressive as well. The music features two tracks from the musical ‘Camelot’, part of which was quoted in the famous interview Jackie did for Life magazine, and the Oscar-nominated score by Mica Levi which felt very emotive.
Overall, ‘Jackie’ is a well-crafted biopic with Natalie Portman’s acting talents at full display. It’s non-chronological approach, inward focus, and Portman’s performance elevate this from lesser biopics. The nuanced, complex portrayal of Jackie ensures that the film does not feel like a propaganda to sanctify Jackie and romanticize the Kennedy administration. The film simply encompasses a few tumultuous days in her life and it is up for the audience to decide what they feel about the actual Kennedys. - Freddy