Natalie Portman has the film absolutely under her spell. Her performance is simply magnetic
Imagine travelling in a car at breakneck speed. You look down to see your husband’s blood surrounding you. All you can do is stare in horror as you hold his head, knowing that he has just been murdered. Now make that man the president of The United States Of America.
On November 22 1963, this is the unique situation Jackie Kennedy found herself in. Four US presidents have been assassinated during their time in office, but with video footage of the event, John F. Kennedy’s is perhaps the most indelible in the mind. The footage is shocking and the subsequent moments could only have been deeply harrowing.
Pablo Larrain’s Jackie stems from the weeks after JFK’s assassination, following his widow (Natalie Portman) as she plans his funeral and deals with new tenants moving into the white house.
Jackie is a film with such complex ideas and emotions running through its core, it is a mighty achievement that the final cut came out as clean and precise as it has done. At times it is incredibly distant and unnerving but this is not an accident. It is held up by two core performances, Portman and score composer Mica Levi, without which the film would establish a strikingly different tone.
Natalie Portman has the film absolutely under her spell. Her performance is simply magnetic, showcasing such an astute understanding of a woman who has just lost her husband, yet knows how important he still is. Jackie Kennedy is going through indescribable loss while single handedly holding the American government, and the whole of America for that matter, in the palm of her hand for just one week. Enough time to give her husband the justice he deserves.
At times it is vastly unpleasant, with Levi’s immaculate score aiding this sense of rejection making the picture as impersonal as it could be. The film is cold, and destructive yet at the same time, there is such an admiration for its eponymous star and shows Jackie Kennedy in the strongest of lights at her weakest time. Portman delivers a chilling performance in a film of an even colder narrative.
Yet, without the bitingly shrill score from Mica Levi the film would collapse. It is always said that music plays such a key part in every film, but it is rare for a score to feel like it could be one of the characters portrayed on screen. The recurring theme is harsh to the ear, but when it isn’t present, it’s a tense and everlasting wait for its return.
Portman and Levi go hand in hand to deliver an outstanding biopic of a woman in dire need of support, yet shows us majestically the forms that strength can truly take.