Film Review | Jackie **

Saturday, 18 March 2017



What do we remember about Jackie Kennedy? On the one hand, a poised lady who was always camera ready; a style icon and an elegant figure at the President’s side. Or on the other, a vision of shock pink scrambling across the back of a limousine whilst her husband lay dying.

Jackie positions us in the days immediately following the assassination of her husband (Philipson) as the iconic First Lady (Portman) battles with her grief and her determination to ensure a legacy she thinks he deserves. However, for what is one of the most tragic moments in recent American history this film came off as quite bland. 
The narrative timeline jumps between various sub plots within the main story which makes it seem confused. The flashbacks to the time before the assassination, when she is with her husband or giving a tour of the White House, are necessary to build her character background but when they appear often felt sporadic and stuck out like a sore thumb rather than cohesive to the story as well as. 
It was hard to remember that the ‘main story’ or the story that isn’t taking place in flashbacks, only spans across a couple of days. The film actually begins a few weeks later when Jackie has invited a reporter to her house to interview her about the assassination. She is very blunt with him and will only allow him to print quotes she approves of. This not only highlights the stock she put in her public image of being a well put together lady but also how controlling she has to be over every aspect of JFK’s legacy.

"I never wanted fame, I just became a Kennedy"

The cinematography (Stéphane Fontaine) of the film draws parallels to that of a Wes Anderson; Portman is often framed in the centre of the shot, static and the only focus, which could be to show how closely she was watched. But instead of Anderson’s complete colour palette, Larraín uses Jackie’s costume as a pop of colour across many scenes including the iconic blood stained pink Chanel suit. The use of real news footage blended so well within the narrative and visual structure that it was probably the best feature of the whole film. Along with the occasional appearance of John Hurt as the sympathising vicar.
The main problem with this supposedly intimate biopic is Natalie Portman’s portrayal. Her adoption of a breathy tone and expressionless features is frustrating and doesn’t invite the audience to empathise with her character. Her performance is stiff and her portrayal gives the impression that Jackie Kennedy was wasteful and rude, rather than one of the most loved First Ladies of the United States. 

Jackie ultimately places too much stock in trying to stand out from other biopics by using flashbacks to tell the main narrative which has resulted in an awkward, disconnected feeling.