Natalie Portman as ‘Jackie’ is a good example of how bad acting can be neutralised through excellent cinematography and a wonderful soundtrack which glue the pieces together of an otherwise too fragmentary a film. Throughout the film, Chilean director Pablo Larrain uses Portman’s face as a magnet to get the lens closer to her and make her whispery and neurotic. Thus, ‘Jackie’ is not a narrative film -in an Aristotelic way- but a cubistic construction of a character who at times who can be candid and manipulative within seconds.
The film explores the lapse that starts with JFK assassination in 1963 to its funeral and places a, sometimes, overwhelmed Jackie at the centre of a political and media hurricane where she tries to negotiate her future through grief and public relations. The film is structured along an interview with a rather cold journalist who functions as a foil for Jackie’s manoeuvring (‘Don’t think for one second you are going to publish this’). It is through that interview that the film jumps back and forth in time. When in the past, Jackie appears filming her seminal 1962 documentary ‘(‘A tour of the White House with Mrs John F Kennedy’) and the viewer is left with no doubt that Jackie wants to be in control of all the details of hers and her husband’s image.
At times, I thought that the film was going to build a case for Jackie’s talent for creating a legacy through a (pseudo-monarchic?) narrative that left a mark both in history and in the popular mythology of her country. The minimalism of the plot would have fitted perfectly into this. The film, however, does not manage to part from the official story leaving us, in the end, with Jackie’s version who remains, shockingly, unquestioned.
I wonder why Larrain didn’t show John John saluting his father’s coffin passing by – almost surely instructed by his mother. What happened between her and her son before that iconic moment. If Larrain tried to preserve the memory of John John, he shouldn’t have made the movie. Regarding Portman’s performance she seems lost during the whole film and one of the reasons might be that having been born in 1981 she cannot differentiate between the way posh people used to talk in the 60s and Jackie’s mannerisms. I am not saying that Jackie, herself, wasn’t affected but Portman’s inability to differentiate her context from the particularities of the person ends up turning Jackie into a clown. Not good. J A T