The most impressive aspect of Jackie is Natalie Portman’s performance, which is more than deserving of the Best Actress nomination she received at the 2017 Academy Awards. However, the film overall doesn’t quite match her excellent portrayal of Jackie Kennedy and while it’s an interesting and emotional insight into the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, it doesn’t find the right balance between light and shade.
In a bid to make it jangle and scrape as much as the real-life situation did, director Pablo Larraín has put a little too much rawness into its construction. This leaves some of the characters seeming too frosty to fit within the overarching real-life story of tragedy and loss, leaving Portman (Thor: The Dark World) to be one of the few stand-out cast members.
If you are to believe the biographical dramatisation, you would assume assume that Jackie was left with very little genuine support and warmth from those closest to her and that doesn’t doesn’t quite fit for us. Peter Sarsgaard (Magnificent Seven) is probably the weakest link in the cast as he lacked connection, humanity and compassion in his portrayal of JFK’s brother, Bobby Kennedy.
Billy Crudup (Alien: Covenant) is also disappointing as The Journalist that interviews Jackie following the assassination and Richard E. Grant (Logan) is wasted as Jackie’s interior designer, William Walton. John Hurt (Alien) puts in one of his last performances as Jackie’s priest and though his acting skills are more than apparent, he’s led into the same divide that makes the film feel so distant. It’s like they’re all acting in a bottle miles and miles away and we’re looking in through a frost-tinted telescope from the comfort of a moon lander.
In addition to Natalie Portman’s skilful and intense portrayal of Jackie Kennedy, the film also benefits from the subtle delivery of the brilliant Greta Gerwig (To Rome With Love), who plays Whitehouse Social Secretary Nancy Tucker. She seems to be the only other character in the film to feel like a real person. It’s just a shame they haven’t been given the support and construct to make it a classic biography.
Cinematography is another big saving grace for Jackie, with excellent shot construction, perspective and 1960s stylistic recreation. It goes a little overboard at times on that last point, with director of photography, Stéphane Fontaine, appearing to try too hard to recreate the visual identity of the era. The combination of the style with modern day HD TVs is tough to square off and perhaps some of the fidelity should have been sacrificed at times.
Jackie is worth watching just for Natalie Portman’s performance alone. It’s not going to be the kind of DVD that many will be desperate to add to the collection, but it isn’t without its merit. It could have been a much more impressive film with a little more light touch, a little less jangle, a few changes to the cast and a firm nudge for Billy Crudup any time he tries to crease out one of his annoying smirk-sneer-smiles when interviewing Jackie.
Jackie DVD review: 3.4/5