Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: Jackie

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: Jackie

Article excerpt

Let's be clear: Jackie is a better performance than it is a film, although I suspect the performance will carry the day, even if that performance is Acting with a capital 'A'. Was I riveted by Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy? I was. She has the look. She has the posture. She has the breathy, Marilyn Monroe-ish voice. But was I aware it was Natalie Portman, Acting? Always. And there isn't much else here. Jackie never adds up to a whole, or anything near; we don't penetrate 'the myth', and there is no real drama. So it's disappointing albeit with a small 'd' because there are worse disappointments in life, and also the clothes are rather good.

As directed by Pablo Larraín (The Club, Neruda) and written by Noah Oppenheim, the film is not a standard, linear biopic, as standard, linear biopics would appear to have had their day. So there is no chronological processional march as dates fly off calendars and newspapers roll off the presses, which is a bit of a pity, as you always knew where you were with that, and always came away with a sense of a life. Here, the framing device is Jackie giving an interview to a journalist a week after the assassination of her husband, John F. Kennedy, in 1963, and then time spools backwards and forwards as we relive that moment, and the before and after. This is all told through Jackie's eyes, which is good, and to be welcomed. We like it when no one puts Baby in the corner ...but what motivates her?

We first meet her in a house that is large and white but not the White House, as it's the Kennedy Compound in Massachusetts. It's only a week after Jack's death and she's being interviewed by an unnamed journalist (Billy Crudup) who is, in fact, based on Theodore H. White, the distinguished political journalist and historian who interviewed her for Life magazine on that same day and in that same place, although whether he was as hostile and clumsy as this journalist, I don't know. My first question was: who would put themselves through this so soon -- a week! -- after experiencing such a horrific trauma? Jackie, that's who. But while we understand that she is obsessed with being in control of her image -- she has copy approval on whatever the journalist writes -- and being in control of 'my husband's legacy', why was that paramount to her? …

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