Verdict: Go watch this movie, if for no other reason then you can say, “I saw the movie that Natalie Portman won Best Actress in.” And bring your grandparents; the more senior members of the audience seemed to love it.
Synopsis: “After her husband’s assassination, Jackie Kennedy’s (Natalie Portman) world is completely shattered. Traumatized and reeling with grief, over the course of the next week she must confront the unimaginable: consoling their two young children, vacating the home she painstakingly restored, and planning her husband’s funeral. Jackie quickly realizes that the next seven days will determine how history will define her husband’s legacy – and how she herself will be remembered.”
The Good: Natalie Portman’s greatest performance, and everything in the film is in service to it
There is very little to even discuss about this movie beyond Natalie Portman’s performance as Jackie Kennedy. It entirely rests on her. There was probably 30 seconds total that she was not on-screen. It may be Portman’s best performance to date.
I do need to add a caveat here: I don’t know that much about Jackie Kennedy. I have only seen what I’m fairly certain most public school kids have, the videos of her showing the White House, and when JFK was assassinated. So I can’t really say Portman captures her perfectly, because I have absolutely no idea who Jackie was. She’s just a mythological figure, a member of the famed Camelot.
Portman takes this figure, and completely break her down into a person. She oscillates between powerful and sharp of both wit and tongue, and petty, childish, silly, and vain. For each version of Jackie, Portman gives everything to the emotion being portrayed. Her mannerisms, ticks, voice, posture, even her accent, change just slightly.
As a whole, Portman takes this varied and nuanced performance, and gives us an incredibly sad character. The performance feels deeply intimate, at times so much so that the camera feels voyeuristic. Portman’s best scene, far and away, is spent wiping her husband’s blood off her face while she looks in the mirror. It is the peak of her performance, and one that will be remembered for years to come.
Beyond Portman’s magnificent performance, there is not much else to say, simply because there is not much else to the film. The costumery and set design is great, but never the focus. The cinematography is interesting, often taking on a POV perspective or becoming chaotic as Jackie’s mood changes, but it is always in service of her. You could take everyone else out of this movie, and you would hardly notice.
The Bad: Non-linear storytelling was slightly confusing, but hardly worth mentioning
There is little bad to even remark on. At most, the story is told in a non-linear fashion that can be a tad confusing, but never enough to really act as a detriment to the overall product.
The Ugly: None
There just isn’t any. There’s not enough in this movie outside of Natalie Portman for it to achieve anything problematic. If I remember correctly, it even passes the Bechdel Test at least once.