Natalie Portman gives the performance of her career – well, certainly since Leon – playing the title role of Jackie, embodying the quivering dignity of America’s First Lady in the hours and days after her husband The President was shot, practically in her lap, in November 1963.
This is an intimate psychological portrait movie, not a biopic, shot in what is becoming Chilean film maker Pablo Larrain’s signature style, where close-ups and crescendoes create profiles of characters that are both impressive and oppressive.
I found Portman’s display chilling and haunting in its fragile control, embodied perhaps by the immaculate blood stains on that iconic pink Chanel-style two-piece.
Again, as is his penchant, Larrain mixes film stock (see Neruda and the Oscar-nominated No, both with Gael Garcia Bernal) to play with history. It’s apt her because that’s what Jackie’s doing, creating, forging, bending history to her will, using the past to control a future legacy.
We follow her around the White House as she displays the changes she’s made in historic TV interview. This is intercut with scenes of the assassination, JFK’s head all over the back of the car, Jackie trying to hold his head together. And then there’s the aftermath, the press interview with Life magazine (the reporter played by Billy Crudup) where she established the idea of Camelot and airbrushed her chain-smoking from her image.
It’s a remarkable film to watch, one you can’t take your eyes off because of the way the close-ups make Jackie (and Natalie) look right at you, pierceing your soul with her prettiness, her steeliness, her anger, her self-preservation instincts, her sense of showbiz, her grasp of story.