Biopics or historical dramas tend to focus on a highlight in the lives of their protagonists. Rarely do we see a film that decides to look at all the space between the famous events. Jackie is one of those brave films; it goes into the simplicities and formalities behind Jacqueline Kennedy’s coping of her husband’s assassination, from her taking off the famous pink outfit, to singing “happy birthday” to her fatherless son, or even seeing Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife pick new drapes as they prepare to move into the White House
Jackie is a story with relatively very little going on in it. We start off with Jackie Kennedy’s (Natalie Portman) first interview after her husband’s death. Through the interview’s questions and answers we flash back into Jackie’s life as First Lady, with the majority of the film is taken up with the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s (Caspar Phillipson) assassination.
As I mentioned above, if the film had been arranged in a linear fashion it would have simply been Jackie going about funeral arrangements for her husband and then giving an interview, simple and maybe a bit boring. But the smart filmmaking team decided to jump from multiple points in time to keep up the tension, as well as slowly provide a context into our protagonist. It’s as much of a big risk as subject is, as you could: lose your audience with a bad editor, mix up tones with an inadequate director, or lose the story’s objective with a mellow screenwriter. Thankfully all three of these facets are extremely strong, kudos to them.
Then there are the performances. Usually when portraying a well known person, most actors tend to go one of two ways: imitate your character as to remain loyal to the person that audiences knew, or focus on the emotional journey and give the audiences a completely new perspective. But Natalie Portman isn’t “most actors,” she is able to infuse both of these aspects into one. She transforms into the former First Lady not only physically, but phonetically as well, taking on the airy form in which Jackie spoke. As for the emotional journey, it was sure to be a meaty role for any actress to sink her teeth into, and Portman, being the expert that she is, was able to relish in the grief and conflicting emotions of her horror-struck character. The film also gets the good addition of an always-welcome Peter Sarsgaard who portrays Bobby Kennedy with more confidence and depth that the role was probably written with.
The picture is a sure gem; it takes on a relatively simple and even passive story and spins it into a spectacle to behold thanks to the immense quality of the artists working both in front as well as behind the camera.