Wednesday, 11 January 2017


eOne Films

Grief is a private affair, or ideally should be, and is experienced as individually as the number of mourners. One person may wail with tears while another may remain silent, seemingly unmoved.

How then to grieve when the eyes of a nation, and the world, are upon you?

Pablo Larrain's Jackie is a study in grief, both public and private, as the First Lady Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Natalie Portman) mourns the loss of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. Set in the lead-up to, and immediate aftermath of the 1963 JFK assassination, and culminating in the president's funeral, Jackie, penned by Noah Oppenheim, is a mix of both fact and fiction as Mrs Kennedy conducts an interview just a week after those historic events.

Summoning a reporter (Billy Crudup) to her home, the First Lady is hoping to establish her husband's legacy and control the media narrative as it relates to her. And the interview, and its contents, are very much on her terms. As combative as the process may be, the reporter's text is at the mercy of Mrs Kennedy's red pen.

And Larrain and Oppenheim are as factual and fanciful as Jackie herself: everything that happens behind closed doors in this film may be fiction but it's no less compelling or believable for that. A mix of history, newsreel and 'what ifs', Jackie seems to be detail-perfect even if it isn't the real thing.

The same could be said of Portman's performance. She may not pass as the First Lady's doppelganger but Portman nails the woman. From the designer wardrobe to that distinct voice, the aesthetics -- and Mrs Kennedy was all about aesthetics -- are spot-on. But Portman also gives her an emotional depth: the histrionics of a grieving widow are leavened by a porcelain-like stillness and the ferocity of a lioness.

Portman's commitment and Larrain's outsider perspective (it's the Chilean director's first English language film) refute both imitation and hagiography. It's a warts-and-all biopic where emotional truth trumps historical fact.

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