Review: 'Jackie' is Natalie Portman's most intriguing performance yet

Marcus Goh
Contributor
Jackie (Shaw Organisation)

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 99 minutes (~1.75 minutes)

Jackie (Shaw Organisation)

‘Jackie’ is a biographical drama about Jackie Kennedy, wife of former US president John F. Kennedy.

The film focuses on the life of Jackie Kennedy after the assassination of her husband. It is told through flashbacks, using an interview with a journalist as to frame the story.

“Jackie” is directed by Pablo Larrain and written by Noah Oppenheim. It stars Natalie Portman (Jackie Kennedy), Peter Sarsgaard (Robert F. Kennedy), Greta Gerwig (Nancy Tuckerman), Billy Crudup (The Journalist), John Hurt (The Priest), Max Casella (Jack Valenti), Beth Grant (Bird Johnson), Richard E. Grant (William Walton), Caspar Phillipson (John F. Kennedy), and John Carroll Lynch (Lyndon B. Johnson). It is rated NC-16.

Jackie (Shaw Organisation)

I must confess that I didn’t think much of the premise of the film. After all, how exciting could a story of a widow be, no matter how famous she was? I was proven wrong from the first scene, when you see Jackie (Natalie Portman) snatching back control of the scene in a show of aggression and power. The story eventually unfolds to show us that there’s more to her, and seeing her confront her fears and worries is what makes ‘Jackie’ a truly compelling film.

Jackie (Shaw Organisation)

Highlights

Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie Kennedy’s many different facets

The titular character seems to be some ignorant debutante at first, to paraphrase Jackie’s own words. Yet there’s so much more to her, which is why a gripping film can be made from her experiences and perspective. Natalie Portman handles all of Jackie’s different sides — be it as a mother, wife, widow or First Lady — with aplomb. She’s at once strong and weak, decisive and unsure, and Natalie Portman delivers an intriguing portrayal of all these facets. She’s a mess of paradoxes, just like every human being, and this character study is why Jackie is such a fascinating character to watch.

Jackie (Shaw Organisation)

Jackie Kennedy’s character growth and change

Thanks to the way the story is told, you see the change in character almost immediately. It’s not so much about the destination as it is about the journey. As Jackie faces a myriad of obstacles in her attempt to do what she believes is right, we see how each confrontation changes her. By the end of the film, we learn what made Jackie the person that we saw at the beginning, and we can’t felt but sympathise with her impossible circumstances as a result.

Jackie (Shaw Organisation)

Non-linear storytelling 

The chronological jumps aren’t anything new in cinema but since it’s such a character-driven story, it helps highlight the contrast between Jackie’s character during different periods of her life. It also allows us to see how she grows from being terrified of the media to becoming the master of it. And ultimately, this helps tie all the climatic events of her life together into a symbolic whole.

Jackie (Shaw Organisation)

Character-driven narrative

The central character is, of course, the person who pushes the story forward. Although Jackie is a victim of circumstances, she soon ends up being the one to controls what happens to her and what happens next, rather than letting fate and protocol dictate how events unfold. In the end, we can’t help but feel sorry, and yet inspired, by how this widow handled her husband’s death with the whole world watching.

Jackie (Shaw Organisation)

Letdowns

Central conflict is weak

With multiple narratives running through the film, the actual struggle that Jackie faces is diluted. The conflict is not as impactful as the inciting incident of the story. However, as with all biographical films, this is more of a function of real life events, rather than a matter of writing.

Jackie (Shaw Organisation)

“Jackie” sees Natalie Portman deliver her most intriguing performance yet.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this more than once? No.

Score: 4.0/5

“Jackie” opens in cinemas:
– 16 February, 2017 (Singapore)

Jackie (Shaw Organisation)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes at marcusgohmarcusgoh.com. The views expressed are his own.