Director: Pablo Larrain
Cast: Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard
With just a few days to the 89th Academy Awards, a slew of Oscar baits has finally reached the Indian shore. However, the one that seems most desperate for the golden man of them all is, of course, Jackie.
The film by Pablo Larrain is based on the first few days after the assassination of America’s most loved president, John F Kennedy. It tells the tragic tale of loss as it was felt by his wife and first lady, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (as she was then known).
The narrative jumps several timelines to build on the chaos and confusion that was the life of Jackie Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) after her husband died in her lap, shot by an assassin’s bullet. She struggles with the loss of love, her personal Camelot, an uncertain future and the threat to the legacy of her husband, who many were beginning to say was ‘no Abe Lincoln’.
Jackie, the film, introduces us to Jackie, the woman, with a press interview. Billy Crudup plays a journalist who has bagged the first interview with Jackie since the assassination and is looking for a headline to slap across his newspaper. She maintains her grace through the interview as she bares her heart but it’s not the same grace that enchanted an entire nation when she once gave a tour of the White House on television.
The constant jumps between the tour where she is a woman of poise, the interview where she is an open book of tragedy, the funeral where she takes charge to give her husband a farewell he (and she) deserves and in the car where she is just a wife who watched her husband die.
Portman does a stellar job of drawing out all the hundred emotions of sadness, grief and hopelessness that one would have thought are humanly possible. Her performance, however, is not as nuanced and varied as in the exceptional Darren Aronofsky film Black Swan, which won her an Academy Award last time. It gets a bit too forced in bits and pieces during the interview or while speaking through her teeth during the tour.
The complicated structure of the story also turns her motivations around every few minutes. Does she want to kill herself? Does she want a massive funeral for her husband? For his legacy? For her own reputation? Does she miss being the first lady more than being JFK’s wife? A long list of ideas is bombarded at the viewer repeatedly and discarded for the next one, leaving them feeling unsure.
Jackie offers a window through time into the life of Jacqueline Kennedy but you wouldn’t want to believe it is due to the exorbitantly larger than life treatment that it gets. The film tried exceptionally hard to be exceptional and it seeps through the seams just enough to make you feel disenchanted.
Whether the Academy agrees, we’ll know it on Sunday.
The author tweets @soumya1405
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