Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy.
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr 40 min
In the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his widow, Jackie (Natalie Portman), is thrown into such a state of shock that she hardly notices that she’s walking around with blood on her fashionably pink dress.
Suddenly, it’s the end of the Camelot era — named for a popular musical with which the Kennedys have become identified — and Jackie is a queen without a king. But clearly, her reign is over. Lyndon Johnson has been sworn in as president, and a startled nation is already beginning to adjust to the change. Jackie has to find a new home and a new way of viewing the world. And she’s scared.
Still, she has to keep up appearances. So when a journalist from Life magazine (Billy Crudup) arrives for a previously arranged interview, she realizes that it’s incumbent upon her to control the narrative. He’ll only be allowed to publish that which she approves. Nothing must be allowed to taint the Camelot story.
But without her husband, Jack, who is Jackie? And what is expected of her? As brother-in-law Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) struggles with what the assassination means for the family’s political relevance, Jackie’s concerns are far more personal.
“Jackie,” one of the best and most ambitious films of the year, is not a conventional biopic. Working from an intricate screenplay by Noah Oppenheim (“The Maze Runner”), Chilean director Pablo Larrain (“Neruda”) conjures a multifaceted portrait of a woman under the influence of politics, celebrity and grief. Larrain deftly balances mainstream moviemaking with an art-film sensibility, which is all the more impressive considering that this is his English-language debut.
Portman is simply brilliant, getting to the essence of Jackie without resorting to a mere impersonation. Particularly in her scenes with Crudup, she’s mesmerizing even when she’s disagreeable. It’s an Oscar-worthy performance.
This may not be the “Jackie” you know, but it’s a vision of the former first lady that’s nonetheless fascinating.