2016. Directed by Pablo Larrain.
America consumes its legends. The fuselage of politics and media exposure are the cutlery, while national tragedies are the main course, with the blood and camera lights dripping from the chin of insatiable public opinion Pablo Larrain’s daring, borderline terrifying examination of Jackie Kennedy in the aftermath of her husband’s assassination is a fairy tale biopic that abandons any sense of tradition in favor of focusing on the concept of bereavement as an inconvenience to the patriotic machine and the unsung defiance of a woman forced to reinterpret her existence in the face of the unthinkable.
Natalie Portman becomes her subject, shredding the First Lady veneer to expose the ugliness of circumstance. Her embodiment of Jackie, of a woman whose entire existence was undone with a bullet, is both brutal and demure, balancing the warm embrace of depression with the repressed rage of gender misappropriation. Poise and conviction are her weapons, filling every sequence with subtle devastation and reluctant resilience. Within instants of the fatal shot, Portman’s Jackie is relegated to an inconvenient specter, walking the halls of the future White House, with her ethereal presence carrying the film through the spectacle of the final act. The deft manner in which Portman glides between cataclysmic psychological horror and rebellious self realization is unparalleled in this year’s lead actress performances.
Stephane Fontaine’s cinematography captures the conflicting nature that flows through the veins of Jackie by using a variety of lighting and sharp angles to offset the personal torment with the grandeur seen by the public. The moments of public knowledge, such as the exquisitely recreated funeral procession, use bright reds and warm blacks in combination to both respect the melancholy underpinnings and explore the inside of a national tragedy. It is the moments in between, however, the quiet and eerie happenings within Jackie’s solitary hell, that are the most memorable. Jean Rabase’s magnificent art direction turns the fabled White House into a haunted Camelot, with Jackie holding a lonely court amidst smoke filled chambers, adorned in immaculate costuming by Madelaine Fonataine. Soft pinks highlight bloodstains and bruised skin, pulling the raw emotional upheaval into the focus, locking the viewer into Jackie’s tumultuous dirge.
Mica Levi’s score is a living entity, the shadow of history that is behind Jackie wherever she treads. Filled with ominous crescendos and sharp tonal misdirection to signify the fleeting dream of America that has become a nightmare. Noah Oppenheimer’s script has garnered some controversy for its treatment of the Johnson’s and Jackie’s reactions to them, but when taken in the context of the situation, the acts as displayed are organic companions to the film’s core mechanic of a woman being systemically undone and this is what elevates Jackie to being one of the best films of its year. The free world will always need a leader, and the second JFK stopped breathing, Jackie’s entire universe, both her porcelain public persona and her briskly resigned private life began to evaporate. The conflict over the funeral serves as a means for Jackie to commit a final act of patriotic maternity that ultimately became the nation’s first steps towards recovery.
Available now for digital rental, Jackie is ballad of pain. A unique offering in the biopic genre that weaves threads of horror and hope into the Chanel armor of its champion, this is a one of kind of offering of poetic deconstruction. Featuring one of the best performances of 2016, astounding technical craft, and an unforgettable score, if you’re looking for an unabashed examination of one of America’s greatest tragedies, this is the one.
Highly. Highly Recommend.