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Four out of five stars
As if her Oscar for "Black Swan" wasn't enough, in "Jackie," Natalie Portman continues to prove herself a world-class actress.
Director Pablo Larrain takes a script written by Noah Oppenheim and pulls off a neat cinematic trick: he turns Jackie Kennedy, an icon of opulence, glamour and grace, into the tragic and heroic protagonist of a narrative steeped in both neorealism and David Lynch-like surrealism.
The audience meets Jackie Kennedy a week after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. She’s at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, where she greets a journalist (Billy Crudup) at the door. While Portman looks as poised and composed as people imagine Jackie Kennedy was or should be, her eyes, the quiver in her voice, and the way she smokes her cigarette suggest something otherwise.
"Jackie" proceeds to tells the story of the assassination. Oppenheim’s script weaves that story via Kennedy’s first-hand account to the journalist, which includes graphic, sobering flashbacks to the assassination and its immediate fallout. There’s also a remarkable recreation of Jackie Kennedy’s famous live televised tour of the White House.
Through that lens, are terrific performances from Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy, and Greta Gerwig as Jackie’s assistant. Caspar Phillipson makes an impressive J.F.K., and Billy Crudup’s performance as the unnamed journalist interviewing Jackie Kennedy -- firm one moment, fumbling and backtracking the next, almost cowering when Mrs. Kennedy calls him on the carpet -- is organic and up to the task.
This is Jackie Kennedy as never really seen before -- raw as raw can be. She is doing everything she can, in the days following the worst moment of her life, to protect her husband’s legacy, knowing full well his flaws as a husband.
Even with its stylistic panache and a tour de force performance from Portman, "Jackie" drags in places, and manipulates in others where it doesn’t need to. Nonetheless, it’s a stunning historical snapshot and nifty piece of filmmaking.