Tuesday 10 January 2017

Film Review: Jackie

Pablo Larrain gets under the skin of one of America’s most iconic and tragic political figures, Jackie Kennedy.

The Kennedy’s are one of America’s most famous, tragic and enduring political legacies; in the past we’ve seen umpteen films and documentaries deconstruct the indelible events that took place in Dallas on November 22, 1963 – but almost all of these have focused on the man himself, rather than those around him.

Jackie, the first English language feature from Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín, instead switches its focus to JFK’s First Lady, Jackie Kennedy (here played by Natalie Portman). His film is a churning vortex of trauma and isolation, a recount of that fateful week told out of order to exacerbate the feeling of chaos, shock and dread. It’s an unconventional biopic in the best way possible and Larraín’s haunting vision of America’s most infamous assassination (and the resulting fallout) is destined to swirl around your head for days afterward.

Plenty of actors can claim to have delivered a quote/unquote iconic performance; but after Jackie, Portman now has two such performances on her resume. Coupled with her transformative turn as a tormented ballerina in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (which rightfully nabbed her a Best Actress Academy Award), Portman joins elite company alongside names like Cate Blanchett, Marion Cotillard and Amy Adams as one of her generations most talented and acclaimed actresses. 

Like Black Swan, Jackie sees Portman totally immerse herself in her role; this is absolutely one of those instances where the actor becomes invisible and we only see the character they inhabit. The film would sink faster than a lead balloon in the hands of a lesser actress and Portman rises to the occasion to make this her film through and through. If it weren’t for the buzz surrounding Emma Stone and La La Land, Portman would already have one hand on that second Best Actress statuette.

Jackie is an evocative and psychological portrait of pain and grief that isn’t viewed at arms length; Larraín gets up close and personal with his subject to examine every caveat of anguish etched into her face. While the film is all about Portman, the supporting cast are excellent also, Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup providing wonderful additions in particular. The latter plays a journalist who is interviewing Jackie, a framing device that allows Larraín to mess our heads and reorder events to maximum effect. 

The cinematography, editing, set design and especially the costumes are all first-rate and deserving of awards recognition. The combined effect of the fragmented narrative, silent imagery and Mica Levi’s haunting score is like living through a vivid fever dream relaying images that burrow under your skin.

The Verdict: 9/10

A gothic, nightmarish and moving piece that feels reminiscent of a Polanski, a Kubrick or even an Aronofsky (who serves as producer), Jackie is yet another showcase of Portman’s depth as an actress and a refreshingly unconventional biopic that stays with you long after the credits have finished rolling.

Jackie is in cinemas across Australia from January 12

This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.


  1. Great review! I'm seeing this on Friday, I can't wait.

  2. Great review! I haven't seen this one yet, but I'll be getting a screener this week. Have you seen Elle? If so, I'm curious as to whether or not Portman will win at Oscars over Isabelle H.

  3. Awesome review! Jackie was one of my top favorites last year and for a long time.



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