“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.