Thursday, July 25, 2024

Natalie Portman Takes a Psychedelic Walk on the Wild Side as Jacqueline Kennedy in “Jackie”


Okay, so we finally got see Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie” tonight, with Natalie Portman’s hypnotic, psychedelic walk on the wide side as Jackie Kennedy in the days after the JFK assassination.

Some of it is real, some of it is imagined. But Larrain and  screenwriter Noah Oppenheim (who’s also the NBC exec in charge of the Today show and is responsible for Billy Bush) have pulled off making a tense and brittle movie about what Jackie Kennedy might have gone through from the moment Lee Harvey Oswald took aim at the presidential motorcade in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

It is by far not a perfect movie, but it is wholly engrossing. We’ve seen so many JFK movies over the years, and Jackie played by lots of actresses– but none like this performance. This is Jackie isolated and alone, depending on Robert Kennedy (an excellent, of course, Peter Sarsgard) and trying to keep it together while everything else is falling apart. She’s no magnolia, not even a steel one. She is tough, and realistic.

Oppenheim frames the movie by having an unnamed journalist played by Billy Crudup come to Hyannisport, commissioned by Mrs. Kennedy to write her story for a magazine. This is fiction in itself, although there might be some reference to Theodore H. White. Anyway, Crudup is a convincing conduit, and elicits the real Jackie while helping to construct the one she wants history to remember.

So this is not history, but just close enough to sell the idea of Jackie. Let me tell you, this is a bleak film. There’s no happy ending. But what you get is this insanely desperate profile of a surprise widow who must quickly decide how history will treat her and her husband. There’s no reference to Jack Kennedy catting around, Marilyn Monroe, or any of that stuff. It’s all about Jackie loving Jack, knowing his shortcomings and plotting her future– one that we don’t get to see beyond the funeral, really.

But Portman is so sensational and luminous that you almost see how Mrs. Kennedy became Mrs. Onassis and then Greta Garbo in New York. As I noted the other day, Portman gets an Oscar nomination to be sure, although I think in the end she’ll be jumped by Annette Bening for “20th Century Women” or Emma Stone in “La La Land.”  But Portman still gets the highest of praise. Wild stuff.

PS Loved the music by Mica Levi, she’s an up and comer.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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