There have been numerous interpretations about the aftermath of JFK’s assassination. The story of the young president shot dead as he rode in a motorcade through downtown Dallas, whilst the First Lady sat beside him, has been told repeatedly.
Jacqueline Kennedy has been portrayed by dozens of actresses in the past, most recently by Katie Holmes in “The Kennedys” series and Ginnifer Goodwin in the TV movie “Killing Kennedy”, so for Natalie Portman, accepting this daunting role was a bold undertaking. Pablo Larraín said he would only direct this movie if Portman played the titular role and she does not disappoint in this biopic.
This is easily Portman’s greatest performance since her Academy Award winning turn in “Black Swan”. She fully ‘becomes’ Jackie Kennedy and the viewer soon forgets they are watching an actress at work. This is more than just an actress wearing the clothes, the pillbox hat and famous hair. Her performance is refined and detailed, from the trademark breathy voice to her posture and mannerisms. She reveals Jackie at her most vulnerable yet still maintains that air of mystery which sealed her place as one of the most iconic women of the 20th century.
The movie is an intimate portrait of Jackie’s life through the aftermath of the 1963 assassination and her transition from First Lady to widow. It uses her interview with a Life magazine journalist as the device for telling the story and takes us from her famous televised White House tour to the funeral of JFK .
The era is captured well and original footage is weaved seamlessly into the film. Many of the shots are in extreme close up which exposes Jackie’s emotions where the world’s eyes are on her at this unimaginable time of tragedy. A particularly haunting scene where she finally washes her bloodstained face is highly effective using this format.
Portman stars in every scene but is well supported by the ever-capable Peter Sarsgaard as Robert Kennedy, the warm and wonderful Greta Gertwig as Nancy Tuckerman, Jackie’s secretary and closest confidant, and the late, great John Hurt as the priest whom Jackie meets when her religious beliefs start to waiver.
Like the lady herself, “Jackie” is a classy telling of a well- documented topic with a highly compelling, Oscar nominated performance from it’s leading lady. I would be thrilled to see her take home a second award for this brave role, as she battles grief at the beginning of the television age, trying to secure a suitable legacy for her husband, her family and for herself.
Behind every great man, is a great woman.