Jackie, directed by Pablo Larraín, is a hauntingly, distressing film, with an incredible lead performance from Natalie Portman. From its very first shot, to its very last shot, I was nearly in continuous awe of this film. It is one of those experiences that almost makes you uncomfortable in how unflinching it is. The approach that the film takes is one that doesn’t shy away from the bleak honesty of a situation that is unimaginable. This is one of those reviews were I don’t think I’m talented enough to do the film justice, but I’m going to try. So here we go.
The film tells the true story of the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But what this film does is completely focus on what the aftermath was like for his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – played by Natalie Portman. The film throws us in deep-end and leaves us to struggle along with its main character. We see nearly every gruelling moment of what must have been one of the hardest moments in Jackie Kennedy’s life. But we also see glimpses of what it was like before. All of this combined, gives us a film that fully demands, and deserves, our attention.
Watching this film, I kept having the feeling that I was watching someone’s terrible nightmare. I had somehow been pulled into the mind of a person, and was now watching them live out the worst time in their life. There is this feeling in ‘Jackie’ that’s palpable, almost like I could see something evil, physically manifesting itself in every scene. It’s as if something was forming in the background and was slowly taking over. But it was one of those things were even though it creeped me out, I couldn’t look away… I didn’t want too.
This film really does go beyond just showing you the biographical events that took place during the Kennedy assassination. It forces its way past, almost seeming to want to pry into moments that you almost feel bad for watching. And that feeling is heightened by the fact that the camera is nearly always a few inches away from its main focus: Jackie Kennedy.
Director Pablo Larraín creates a slightly claustrophobic feeling with where he puts the camera. We see so much of Jackie Kennedy’s struggle, and we are so close to it all, that we aren’t given anywhere to avert our eyes. Much like she couldn’t escape this horrible time, neither can we, the audience abandon her and try to divert our attention somewhere else. This utterly unflinching, honest, almost intrusive look into that time in her life is something that became addicting to me. Much like when you can’t help but turn and look at a car accident, when driving, I continually wanted more of this story and of its characters.
Jackie as a film is loyal to its name; everything in the film makes sure to keep the focus on her and how she was dealing with the uniquely horrible situations and decisions she was put in. The focus is so unflattering in that way, Larraín does not shy away from showing all the uncomfortably inhuman moments. This is not a film that paints Jackie Kennedy as any sort of angel. We really do see into the world of someone who was perhaps not all there (mentally). Even before the assassination, we see glimpses of what she was like, and it is not the prettiest of pictures. The lights shine bright and what they reveal is every bruise, blemish and inconsistency in her life.
And in there is a shining beacon that is guiding this whole thing: Natalie Portman. It has already been announced that she has been nominated for a ‘Best Actress’ Oscar, and rightly so. Portman in this film is incredible. She captures every little insecurity of Jackie Kennedy, every little physical tick, and she portrays it all in the most outstanding way. I was completely transfixed by not only Jackie Kennedy as a person (in this unimaginable situation) but also Natalie Portman and her performance. When the time calls for Portman to show the depths that Mrs Kennedy sank too, she delivers; when it comes time to highlight just how distant she could become, there’s Portman to do it in the most unsettling way. This really is a tour de force by, Natalie Portman – one that’ll surely nab her the win at the Oscars.
Another aspect to this film (that I’ve alluded to already) is visually how it is presented. From a cinematography standpoint, ‘Jackie’ has frames within scenes that are almost like exquisitely done paintings; with moments that just come barrelling out at you. There were quite a few occasions where I would just slightly recoil and blink my eyes rapidly, as I couldn’t believe some of the stunning imagery that the film was presenting.
But it’s not only how chillingly beautiful the film looks. ‘Jackie’ is shot on film and its aspect ratio is nearer the standard used in the 60’s. What this allows them to do is splice in actual news and documentary footage from the time, into the events of the film. You’d think it would be distracting or jarring, but I actually found it to be more immersive. It added to the tone of the film and it gave it a heightened feeling of authenticity.
And then the aspect of the film that then added to the whole feeling of the film was the score by, Mica Levi. The music and the sounds used in this film are overwhelming in their impact. There would be times where it would start off in the background, just ever so slightly complimenting the scene, but as things built in the narrative, the music itself would also start to build. Both would build and build, until the music itself would completely take over; as Jackie Kennedy would begin to spiral out of control, the score would then take charge and create this totally encompassing experience – one that would just overwhelm every sense. It’s… I don’t know, it’s something so different.
Jackie was one of those films that had me from the very beginning; I knew it was something I was going to love. Leaving the cinema, I was just amazed at what I had seen. This is one of those film experiences that just sticks with you. I think the only critique that I can give the film is that nearer the end, it does struggle to keep its momentum; things do begin to waver, just ever so slightly. But then it pulls it back, and then redelivers on what it was doing before. It left me wholly satisfied as a film watcher.
There is no doubt in my mind, I am recommending, Jackie. A film that is unfortunately been lacking in attention (I feel) but is one you absolutely need to make the effort to see.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on, Jackie! Feel free to leave any comments you have down below. If you’re interested, you can follow my blog directly, or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. That way you’ll always know when I post something new. Thank you for taking the time to read my review, and I hope you liked it enough to return.