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Arts and Entertainment Friday, Dec. 23, 2016 4 years ago

Film review: 'Jackie'

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"Jackie" is a powerfully solemn portrait of grief, loss and dignity.

"Jackie" is a powerfully solemn piece of filmmaking. It plunges headfirst into the days following John F. Kennedy's assassination, as seen through the eyes of First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. And Natalie Portman's brilliant portrayal of her will cast a spell on you.

In an interview format by an unnamed journalist (rumored to be Theodore H. White, played by Billy Crudup), Jackie candidly opens new and old wounds. But she adamantly insists that she is in charge of what will be put out to the public. Bold, unsettling comments seemingly come out of nowhere during the interview. The first of which was, "Thank God I was with him." She follows by asking if he wants to know how the bullet sounded when it hit.

The journalist is left speechless.

The interview is meticulously interwoven with flashbacks and archival footage, which put events into precise historical context. The immense dignity displayed as Jackie endeavors to balance enormous loss with making brave decisions is electrifying. But we're also privy to falling-apart moments behind closed doors. In one particular scene, she's chain smoking, swilling Stoli, popping pills and rifling through her wardrobe while listening to Richard Burton's rendition of "Camelot" (Jack's favorite tune).

Director Pablo Larrain explores the chasm between one's public image and who they actually are as human beings with enormous skill. He portrays Kennedy less as an icon and more as a mother, wife and woman. When he shoots a scene, in which Jackie stands sobbing in front of a mirror while wiping her husband's blood off her face, it's naked and raw. And it's devastating.

Portman's performance is never better. She walks the walk, talks the talk — and never flinches. Even in Jackie's most vulnerable moments, Portman portrays them with such poise and intensity, we feel an indescribable closeness to her character. It's riveting.

A strong supporting cast, which includes Peter Sarsgaard (as Bobby Kennedy), Greta Gerwig (as lifetime confidante, Nancy Tuckerman) and John Hurt (as a priest), gets little screen time, but powerful moments. The camera is ever-poised on Portman's face, running the gamut of emotions she is forced to bear. Her grief, her love for her husband, his legacy and her future all weigh heavily on the woman who heard the shot hit her husband's head.  

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