Jackie: Natalie Portman is Superb in Kennedy Biopic

Natalie Portman as "Jackie Kennedy" in JACKIE. Photo by Pablo Larraín. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved.

In her portrayal of former First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman is absolutely superb in Jackie. Portman disappears into the role and audiences forget that it’s the Oscar winner on screen.

Portman leads a cast that also includes Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Richard E. Grant, Caspar Phillipson, John Carroll Lynch, Beth Grant, Max Casella with Billy Crudup and John Hurt.

In Jackie, we are taken back to the final days of Camelot in 1963. Every living person remembers where they were on November 22, 1963, when the news broke that President John F. Kennedy had been killed in Dallas A tragic moment for all Americans, we see it through Jackie’s perspective as she battles through the 22nd and the next few days that follow. She wants her husband to be remembered for something and have a legacy. With less than a term in office, it’s hard to have a legacy left but it’s hard not to think of the Kennedy family and think of Camelot.

Over the three days that follow President Kennedy’s death, Jackie has to tell her children and console them, plan the funeral, prepare for President Johnson and his wife to move in to the White House, and have some kind of control in how Jack’s legacy would be defined by history.

Director Pablo Larraín makes some interesting moves with choosing to mix in historical footage and recreate it on the screen, including the 1962 broadcast of A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy. What we see with Jackie is someone who is human and a vulnerable woman after suffering a huge loss.

While a story could have been told about the late First Lady’s life, it was smart of screenwriter Noah Oppenheim, an NBC news veteran, to focus on a few days in November 1963.

“Like so many women in history, Jackie has never really gotten her proper due. She’s been portrayed mainly for her style and elegance, but she deserves more credit for her exceptional understanding of image, public relations and really creating the idea of Camelot after JFK’s death,” Oppenheim says of Jackie. “When I read about that single week in 1963 — when she had to console two grief-stricken children, deal with moving out of what was really her only home, contemplate a whole different life moving forward, and at the same time had one last shot to solidify her husband’s legacy — it was extraordinary. I couldn’t imagine a more revealing moment to explore one of the most interesting women of the last century.”

Jackie was not one to really talk to the press. Crudup plays a journalist, likely inspired by Life magazine journalist Theodore H. White, one of two known people to be given post-presidency interviews following the death of the president. The other being the eight hours recorded by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

Distributed by Fox Searchlight, Jackie opened with a limited release in five theaters on December 2nd before expanding into 26 this weekend. It is expected to be playing in just over 200 theaters by the end of the year.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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