Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Chile/France/USA, 2016. Fox Searchlight Pictures, LD Entertainment, Wild Bunch, Protozoa Pictures, Fabula, Why Not Productions, Endemol Shine North America, Bliss Media, Jackie Productions. Screenplay by Noah Oppenheim. Cinematography by Stephane Fontaine. Produced by Darren Aronofsky, Pascal Caucheteux, Scott Franklin, Ari Handel, Juan de Dios Larrain, Mickey Liddell. Music by Mica Levi. Production Design by Jean Rabasse. Costume Design by Madeline Fontaine. Film Editing by Sebastian Sepulveda. Academy Awards 2016. Golden Globe Awards 2016. Gotham Awards 2016. Independent Spirit Awards 2016. Toronto International Film Festival 2016.
Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain makes the film that should have marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy three years earlier, in place of the failed Parkland. Natalie Portman is surprisingly effective, despite a scant physical resemblance, as the First Lady who is suddenly relieved of her position when her husband is murdered on a Dallas street, seated right next to her in a convertible as part of a motorcade procession. This intelligent, hauntingly elegant film has journalist Billy Crudup show up at her door a week later to get her version of the story, navigating the distance between the truth and what she prefers to present as the truth as she relives the days immediately following the assassination; the woman whose efforts in the job of First Lady seemed mostly focused on presenting herself as a style icon and who never had a good relationship with the press is suddenly making PR choices that mystify her husband’s and her own family, refusing to change her bloodied outfit or hide from the cameras, and planning a funeral as the utmost indulgence in grandeur. Not a biopic but a fascinating, intimate character study, the film has Larrain making subtle jabs at the way that public figures are scrutinized, an apt subject in the age when social media sees the public commenting on celebrities to the point of micromanaging them, judging actions while rarely knowing the truth behind them. Portman is the opposite of Jackie in many ways, her warm tones and available, sad smile the antithesis of the real woman’s flat voice and dead eyes which were the reason why she was both untouchable class aspiration for millions of women and the bane of reporters trying to figure her out, and yet the actress gives a dynamic performance that is more than just a skillful recreation of that unmistakable eastern seaboard accent. Her clever eyes telling Crudup that she doesn’t smoke while puffing on her umpteenth cigarette of the day make her a bewitching, soulful character, sadly funny in the recreations of Jackie’s televised White House tour (minus the football-helmet hairstyles that this film unfortunately avoids), and chilling in the Kubrickian tracking shots of quiet solitude (the White House in this film is the room from the end of 2001). Top it up with a surprising choice to recreate the assassination in detail and you have a film that stays in the memory for a long time.