Tag Archives: Natalie Portman

“Jackie”

LOUISA: 2.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

“Jackie” is a film that is intended to be an intimate portrait of the iconic, fashionable and strong willed Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman), offering a twist on the story by setting it during the days following her husband’s assassination. The idea behind the screenplay is a good one, but the movie is damaged by a vague cloud of selective history and is at times uncomfortably overacted by Portman.

All in all it’s a good turn for the Oscar winner (for 2010’s “Black Swan”), but it feels like she is trying so hard to win as many awards as possible with this role that it sharply turns into something that’s more campy than eloquent. My measuring stick is that it’s not truly great acting if it doesn’t look effortless, and Portman’s performance seems strained and labored, the actress trapped inside the real-life quirks of her character. There’s plenty of crying and grief-yelling and chain smoking, if you catch my drift.

Little about Pablo Larraín‘s direction worked for me, with lots of lingering close-ups and so many slowly zooming shots that it promptly became too noticeable and irritating. The film rambles a bit too much and plays with its own nonlinear timeline, drifting between scenes that offer a truly compelling look at what it must’ve been like to live as the First Lady when your husband is murdered right in your arms and pure overindulgent filler. (Jackie trying on beautiful outfits while listening to the “Camelot” soundtrack tried my patience almost more than any other scene in any other film in recent memory).

Even worse is composer Mika Levi’s original score. It is so god-awful that you have to hear it to believe it. The score changes dramatically, starting with a perplexing “woooomp” of a somber trombone, but then morphing into an inappropriate cheerfulness when Jackie has to break the tragic news to her kids that their dad is dead.

The reenactments of the horrific historical moments will leave a lump in your throat, but for every touching memoir there’s five times the amount of bloated filler in the script. While I enjoyed seeing Jackie interacting with Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard), their scenes together are so frequently repeated that the emotional impact is lessened. There’s also bit too much emphasis placed on the gimmicky religious discussion that Jackie has with a priest (John Hurt). It’s unnecessary and slows the film’s momentum, as do the constant flashbacks into the past as well as back to present day.

This bottled up biopic of restrained grief, trauma and faith isn’t an awful movie, but its failures lie in what it could’ve been. I would mildly recommend it to American history buffs.

“Knight of Cups”

LOUISA: 1.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Pompous, pretentious, and ambiguous are the first three words that come to mind when attempting to describe “Knight of Cups.” This incoherent, visually self-important and bloated film from director Terrence Malick is one of the most trying films I’ve ever had to force myself to sit through. Its lethargic pacing is torturous; its lack of a clear plot is maddening.

From what I could discern, the ‘plot,’ and I use that term loosely, centers around writer Rick (Christian Bale). Rick isn’t a very nice dude. He likes to spend his days doing drugs and hanging out with gorgeous women poolside at The Standard hotel. As with most Malik films, Rick has an uncomfortable relationship with both his brother (Wes Bentley) and his dad (Brian Dennehy), and he has an endless parade of ladies in his life. I think the film is attempting to take the viewer on a series of exploits with these different women, including a wild child (Imogen Poots), his physician ex-wife (Cate Blanchett), exotic model (Freida Pinto), a past heartbreak (Natalie Portman), an innocent (Isabel Lucas), and a stripper (Teresa Palmer). The laundry list of acting talent is impressive; too bad the director is so narcissistic that he all but wastes these performers.

I don’t think I will be able to write a meaningful review because honestly, I didn’t really get the incoherent message of this movie (and I was a huge fan of Malick’s “Badlands” and “The Thin Red Line,” and “The Tree of Life” ranked at number 2 on my Top 10 Best Films of 2011). “Knight of Cups” is far too long and far too maddening to make any sort of lasting impact. This isn’t lazy filmmaking: it’s lazy storytelling.

There’s not much going on here but a cacophony of indecipherable obscurity that’s masquerading as high art. I struggled to get through this film, and you will too. If someone makes the attempt to sing the film’s praises, be forewarned that they are just blowing smoke and attempting to exude sophistication and intelligence. This movie isn’t good and don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise.


Matt was unavailable for review.

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“Jane Got A Gun”

LOUISA:     3.5 STARS     MATT:   3.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

I don’t respond well to westerns but I love a good ass-kicking heroine, and “Jane Got A Gun” delivers just that. Try to ignore the miscasting of Natalie Portman as the titular Jane and relish the perfect casting of Joel Edgerton as a rancher who helps her defend her home against a gang of ruthless outlaws. Ewan McGregor, playing an unintentionally campy sort of Black Bart villain complete with a giant black hat and horrendous fake teeth, is shamefully wasted here.

Director Gavin O’Connor seems ill equipped to handle a western and it shows: while the story fits the formula (outlaws are a’comin’ so let’s get some guns and hole up in our homestead and shoot ’em all when they come for us), it’s visually unappealing (washed out images make the film look drab, and confusing editing that jumps around makes the movie feel like there are big chunks of story missing). However, the script here is really good and I genuinely cared about the characters. Fans of the genre will find this worthy of a viewing.

The extra half star rating is for the charming (and misbehaving) white horse who steals the show in every scene he is in. Keep an eye on that equine, he is one to watch.

MATT SAYS:

Anchored by strong performances by Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton, “Jane Got a Gun” is a simple story, well-told. The movie is set in the bad old days of the American West where murder, thievery and white slavery are commonplace and the line between good and evil cannot be clearly drawn and the ability to kill, and kill well, is a highly-valued talent. In 1870s New Mexico, life is driven by the categorical imperative, and Jane is forced by circumstances to take lives to protect her own and those of her family.

The Western has all but fallen out of favor with the modern movie-going public, however movies like this one remind us that the setting can serve as a powerful backdrop for fresh new stories that can reinvigorate the genre. Like the “The Homesman” in 2014, “Jane Got a Gun” is a rare female-driven Western, one that features an expansive landscape but a story that is small and simple in scope. And like that movie, this one is worth watching.