JACKIE (2016)

Genre: Biography/Drama
Director: Pablo Larraín
Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Richard E. Grant, Caspar Phillipson, John Carroll Lynch
Runtime: 1 hr 40 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Disturbing Scenes)
Released By: Shaw
Official Website: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/jackie/

Opening Day: 16 February 2017

Synopsis: JACKIE is a searing and intimate portrait of one of the most important and tragic moments in American history, seen through the eyes of the iconic First Lady, then Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Natalie Portman). JACKIE places us in her world during the days immediately following her husband's assassination. Known for her extraordinary dignity and poise, here we see a psychological portrait of the First Lady as she struggles to maintain her husband's legacy and the world of "Camelot" that they created and loved so well.

Movie Review:

In this columnist’s humble opinion, Emma Stone is getting too much hype for her role as an aspiring actress in Damien Chazelle’s musical romantic drama La La Land. It is quite obvious that Natalie Portman has done a much, much better job in this biographical drama directed by Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain (The Club, Neruda).

While Stone sings and dances her way to winning one Best Actress accolade after another, it is probably just not Portman’s year as she quietly brings the heart wrenching role of Jackie Kennedy to life. While we in this part of the world may not be familiar with this aspect of American history, Jackie’s life after the 1963 assassination of her husband John F Kennedy shows her at both her most vulnerable and her most graceful moments.

Mica Levi’s (Under the Skin) ominously heartrending Oscar nominated score opens the film, and we see Jackie’s close up. She opens to the door for a journalist (the underrated Billy Crudup) who is about to talk to her about the series of events that followed the unfortunate death of her husband. From there, there are several flashbacks to different moments in time: where Jackie films a TV special in the White House, where she experiences first hand how a bullet hits John F Kennedy’s skull (she refers to him as “Jack), how she refuses to take off her blood stained pink Chanel suit after Jack’s death, how she decides to lead her children out of the White House during the state funeral, and how she packs up all her belongings in the White House to move on with life.

These moments are interspersed in non linear fashion, with Jackie’s conversations with the journalist between. Viewers who are impatient may be frustrated with the somewhat incoherent style of storytelling, but the emotional returns are worth your time if you take some time to appreciate the how the filmmakers have beautifully painted an intrinsic human portrait of Jackie with this film based on Theodore H White’s Life magazine interview with the widow conducted at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

Portman is brilliant here, and while some may feel that it is an impersonation based on a historical figure, you need to soak in the moments when the 35 year old actress expresses grief, anger, doubt and all the emotions one feels in difficult times. Portman is elegant and does this without words, and one can only imagine what it was like for the real Jackie to face the entire spectacle that was going on around her while she was dealing with a personal tragedy. Gracefully dressed in outfits from the 1960s, the film is also nominated for Best Costume Design at the 89th Academy Awards.

Yes, this 100 minute film is definitely a Oscar bait. It is unlikely that Portman will win the Best Actress (she has been recognised for her performance in Darren Aronofsky’s hard hitting 2010 drama Black Swan), but this doesn’t mean that this poignantly striking film should go unnoticed.

Besides Portman, there are also commendable performances by the ever reliable Peter Sarsgaard as JFK’s younger brother Robert F Kennedy, Greta Gerwig as White House Social Secretary Nancy Tuckerman and the late John Hurt as a priest who shares his spiritual outlook with Jackie. This was also Hurt’s final film released before his death earlier in January this year.

When Hurt’s character tells Jackie that there comes a time in man’s search for meaning when he realses there are no answers, it leaves viewers pondering about the very essence of life.   

Movie Rating:

(Showcasing a beautiful performance by Natalie Portman, the film tells the poignant story of how a public figure maintained her courage amidst a personal tragedy)

Review by John Li

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