REVIEW — “Jackie”
Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot
Jackie is directed by Pablo Larraín and written by Noah Oppenheim. It has a cast featuring Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt, Richard E. Grant and Caspar Phillipson. It tells the true story of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy fighting through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy. This is a weird one guys. Jackie is an unnerving, creepy, biopic that is so unconventional and so strikingly strange that I couldn’t help but love almost everything about it, even if I don’t understand it. I would feel uncomfortable recommending this to anyone but it’s a must see.
Pablo Larraín is in the director’s chair for Jackie and it shows. Larrain is known for his very provocative films and his style coupled with the ever-provocative Darren Aronofsky executive producing creates a very interesting tone and it bleeds through Jackie is quite literally every frame. This is the strangest movie I’ve seen in all of 2016. Some scenes had me terrified and others had me very uncomfortable. Larrain has very firm direction over this project, filling it with a lot of very heavy themes and undertones and I’m sure a lot of it went over my head. Jackie is like the scary love child of Steve Jobs and Under The Skin and it strangely works. You’ll never be bored while watching this and while the subject matter isn’t always the most entertaining at times, it is filmed and scored so strangely you won’t be able to turn away. Jackie puts you in a sort of trance that you won’t be able to get out of once it starts. With this and Neruda, 2016 is proving to be a very good year for Mr. Larraín.
The script is written by Noah Oppenheim and he is known for his previous award-winning scripts, such as Allegiant and The Maze Runner. All jokes aside the script for Jackie is very well done. Although, Pablo Larraín is very much the star here so I don’t know who to give credit too. I can’t say how historically accurate Oppenheim’s script is but I left being very fascinated with the Jackie Kennedy and her life. This is a nonlinear story and he does a good job of weaving them together into something coherent. I was able to guess structurally, what time the story would end in, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He also added a lot of humor into it which was very welcome as the story is somewhat of a downer. My only issues with critiquing the script for Jackie is I don’t know if it was written with the intention of it being as weird and out there as it is, or if Larraín used the script as a jumping off point and the end product is his own vision. At the time of writing this review, the screenplay has not been released but when it is, rest assured I will be reading it.
Now for the main event. Jackie houses a sublime performance from Natalie Portman and she deserves all her Oscar buzz. This is by far her best performance and in my opinion, tops her work in Black Swan. She is almost unrecognizable and if she wins the award it will have been well earned. I cannot say the same for the rest of the cast. Not to say any of them are bad, it’s just they come nowhere near the level of excellence that Natalie Portman does. Peter Sarsgaard does a good job as Bobby Kennedy even though he looks absolutely nothing like him. Greta Gerwig, while brief, does a great job and has a very likable character. Billy Crudup probably places second, I really enjoyed his character and performance. John Hurt is also a welcome addition and I would have loved to see more of him. At the end of the day, this is Natalie Portman’s show and the rest are competing for second place.
On a technical level, this is where things start to get weird. This is filmed, scored, and shot like a horror movie. The cinematography isn’t necessarily good, it’s just so damn interesting. It will change aspect ratio, resolution, and characters will move randomly in the middle of a sentence. Mica Levi, who also composed the score for Under the Skin, does a great job freaking out the audience and really unsettled me the entire time. The editing is not the best, but for the vibe, Larraín set up it completely works. Under a different director, these elements would never work together, but Larraín weaves them together in just the right way that it just works. Jackie should not work, but it strangely does. I walked out with a big smile and I couldn’t stop talking about it. This is one of the most unique films of 2016, and while it’s not worth rushing to the theater to see, it’s worth seeing.
In short, while it may not be at the top of your must-see list, Jackie is a unique experience with a truly excellent performance from Natalie Portman. It’ll creep you out, but it’s definitely worth the watch. 3.5/5