Jackie (USA/France/Chile, 2016)

Directed by: Pablo Larraín. This one was a no-brainer, for someone who is as fascinated by the JFK mythology as I am, and for that matter, I always love a good Natalie Portman outing. It occurred to me that, being the age I am, I’ve sort of grown up with her, but a lot of the stuff I know her from was stuff that didn’t age well, stuff that seems now really cartoonish or immature. The Star Wars prequels are niche joke ironic viewing only; V for Vendetta was fine but it’s not something you go back to; the less said about Garden State the better. But I hadn’t really seen her in much that I could really appreciate her performance, since Black Swan at least, and that was a while ago. So here we are. Not a fantastic movie, not incredible or unmissable. Although, if you’re interested in the filmography of dear Natalie, then it’s definitely required viewing. And for that matter, if you’re into following the filmography of the dearly departed John Hurt, I believe this is his last appearance, as the wise, sage old priest. All of the supporting players are amazing here, including Peter Sarsgaard again (I should get a Sarsgaard stamp card at this rate!), the wonderful and underused Billy Crudup, the amazing John Carrol Lynch as LBJ, and a delightful surprise appearance by Richard E. Grant as the assistant guy. And I hardly recognized Greta Gerwig! But really, the day belongs to Natalie, and with good reason. This is a very airy film, almost stream-of-consciousness, one where the director’s imprint is bigger than most, and I’m afraid this serene approach may risk alienating some viewers sometimes. What keeps the film from drifting into the clouds is having a solid personality, someone we can really anchor ourselves to, and to me, Natalie was absolutely incredible at making this fully rounded, bizarre, unique individual come to life, so believable, so vulnerable, yet so full of conviction of what she wanted in these handful of days, the most important days in the history of her husband’s legacy. Portman’s job here is to never let the audience ask “why should I give a shit about JFK’s funeral arrangements?”, and to me, it worked. Of course it’s important, of course I’m hanging on her every word, and I was utterly compelled to the end.

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