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Jackie, review: ‘Portman’s portrayal of fragility is spot on’

PUBLISHED: 12:00 18 January 2017

Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in Jackie. Picture Entertainment One

Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in Jackie. Picture Entertainment One

Archant

This is Jackie before the O, and right after the FK; America’s premier first lady in mourning, at a loss, cast adrift, trying to hastily erect a myth around her late husband

This is Jackie before the O, and right after the FK; America’s premier first lady in mourning, at a loss, cast adrift, trying to hastily erect a myth around her late husband, give her tragedy some reason. This is her story; for most of its length her husband is an absence, just a body with a bloody hole in it.

This is not a warm film. I walked into the screening room on one of the coldest days of the year and the bitter northwesterly that cut right through you outside was nothing on the chill emanating from the screen inside.

In the wrap around, journalist Billy Crudup is interviewing a spiky Jackie shortly after the funeral, in a large freezing country house. The interiors look icy enough, but they choose to sit outside on the porch all wrapped up, huddled around her cigarette for warmth.

There is a flashback to her doing a televised tour of the White House, but the majority of the film is the week between the nightmare on Elm Street and the state funeral in a wet and wintry Washington. (Even the Dallas scenes seem grey.)

Chilean Pablo Larraín’s (The Club, No, Neruda) first English language feature is an intense mood piece, and an extended exploration of the shock of grief.

The phenomenal music score by Mica Levi (Under the Skin) does a lot of the work here. It sets the tone of being bereft and totally isolated early, and then keeps you trapped inside that bubble of shock and anguish.

Beyond that though the film doesn’t offer much insight, or seem that interested in the politics or history of the situation. Which brings us to the central question of how Natalie Portman does as Jackie. And to be honest, who knows? Jackie Bouvier/Kennedy/Onnassis remains something of an enigma.

Her legacy is largely seen and not heard. Watching Portman I was struck by how much her whispery, husky voice sounds like Marilyn but checking some clips online, hers is very decent approximation of what she sounded like.

She doesn’t have the physical presence though; she still looks like a child star. She gives you the fragility, but maybe not the strength.

Rating: 4/5 stars

www.halfmanhalfcritic.weebly.com for a review of Jim Jarmusch’s Gimme Danger documentary about The Stooges

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