Jackie

Pablo Larrain’s elegant motion picture Jackie is an intimate recounting of the week after the assassination of President Kennedy told from the perspective of the first lady. It is a sympathetic film about a woman many pitied and some disliked but many – over time – came to admire, if not love. In the style of the great masters of cinematic character studies like Cassavetes, the camera is never far from its subject as she almost sleepwalks through hell from Dallas to Washington to Hyannis Port, weeps and rages and attempts to drown her despair in pills and alcohol. Larrain explores how the president’s death transformed this woman who, as we come to discover, was barely holding it together as first lady – unnerved by threats to her husband and the country, doubting God, his purpose and hers – when she becomes the most public of widows. Natalie Portman is riveting as Jackie Kennedy and gives the best, most fully sustained performance I’ve seen over the past year. A long sequence in the middle of the film follows the mourning Jackie as she wanders from room to room in the White House, draping pearls around her neck, pulling on gowns, a burning cigarette always within reach, and the soundtrack of the broadway musical Camelot, one of JFK’s favorite recordings, playing in the background. It’s mesmerizing and heartbreaking.

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