As a teenager I lived through the period depicted, the early 1960s. JACKIE is, as directed by Pablo Larraín Matte, a picture-perfect portrait of the time. Natalie Portman shows all the nuance and back-story internal fortitude that made Jackie, Jackie. Beth Grant’s portrayal of a cold Texan, Lady Bird Johnson, gives me chills. I didn’t expect a great deal from this movie when production was announced. That was my error. It’s stellar filmmaking.
To quote Nigel M Smith in The Guardian:
Natalie Portman is disarmingly self-effacing for an Oscar winner with a good chance to net a second golden statue next month. “I usually see a movie once when it comes out at the premiere and then never see it again,” she told the Guardian last summer. “Usually I cringe through the premiere and hate everything I do. The less I’m in a movie, the more I like it.”
If ever Portman is in need of a confidence boost, she’d do well to glance over the ecstatic reviews lavished upon Jackie, her latest film. For taking on arguably the biggest challenge of her career by playing Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, one of the most enigmatic and beloved women in American history, Portman has received plaudits so complimentary they rival those she got for her Oscar-winning performance as a doomed ballerina in Black Swan.
Variety praised Portman’s portrayal as “complex” and “meticulously shaded”. “To watch Portman’s every move is to not only watch history being recreated, but to also witness history being made,” wrote Barry Hertz of the Globe and Mail. “No one will ever be able to touch this role again. Or, at least, no one should.”
Portman doesn’t much resemble the former First Lady; she does however nail her breathy and docile-sounding voice, without letting the affectations get the better of her. Tom Hanks, speaking at the Palm Springs film festival last week, reckons it’s Portman’s “unknowable mystery” that made her “the only actor” to star in director Pablo Larraín’s intimate portrait.
Hanks is right. As written by Noah Oppenheim, Kennedy Onassis is presented as a fascinating blend of contradictions: testy with press, vulnerable when prodded, fiery when challenged and timid when faced with the decorum of the White House.
Final note: Seeing Portman’s performance alone is more than worth the price of admission.