Guest Blogger Review: Jackie

Posted 28 January 2017

Be Prepared for Jackie

JackieAs an avid filmgoer and Infinity Card holder, I usually avoid reviews before I see a film, preferring to compare my own unprompted thoughts with critics such as Mark Kermode after the event. However, with Jackie, I wish I had seen the reviews first, because this is a film, or more specifically a performance from Natalie Portman, which you really need to prepare for.

There’s no denying that Portman’s Jackie Kennedy is a great turn, but it is incredibly hard to like. But then perhaps that is the intention. The breathy, Marilyn Monroe voice and doll-like movements are deliberately discomforting because she is playing a complex woman who herself is playing a complex role.

The character is both completely in control yet floundering; surrounded by people yet devastatingly alone. She has the power and the final say on Kennedy’s funeral arrangements, yet at the same time she is ostracised and shut out by the speed of the changes around her, as the new administration of Lyndon Johnson sweeps into the White House before she has even packed up her children’s toys.

We rarely see behind the façade as Jackie maintains her public persona, sharing only a wordless mini-breakdown as she drinks heavily and relives the glory days in dress after designer dress. This is a woman who has had to sacrifice so much to be who everyone expected her to be with Kennedy, that she has almost forgotten who she is without him.

Yet even as she loses her husband, her home and the father of her children, it is him that she is determined to protect. His memory, his legacy, his Camelot.

Kermode describes the film as a kaleidoscope, and he’s absolutely right. It is a jarring, disjointed montage of scenes that leaves you feeling disturbed and uncomfortable. Jackie’s obsession with how these images are reflected in the press, in the public eye, and ultimately in the pages of history, only serves to heighten the analogy.

Director Pablo Larrain’s choice of a boxy 1.66:1 aspect ratio dials up the sense of claustrophobia that Jackie feels as everything closes in around her. Compared to the vast Cinemascope 2.55:1 of La La Land, this feels intense and almost invasive in its intimacy. Jackie is allowed no personal space.

With the recent departure of one of the most loved First Ladies of modern times, replaced by an altogether gruffer administration, Jackie arrives with perfect timing. But don’t go expecting an easy ride. This is not your average by-the-numbers biopic. You have to be prepared to work hard and see behind Portman’s initially irritating impression of Jackie Kennedy, to truly understand her situation and motivation.

At just 100mins, I felt that there was time available that could’ve been used to give us a little more context; to explain Jackie’s life and the legacy of Kennedy that she was fighting so hard to protect. A little longer would also give you more time to see behind the studied, stilted performance to find the reasons behind it.

Nonetheless, Jackie is well worth seeing - just make sure you go with someone else, so you can peel away the layers together afterwards to get to the heart of this intensely complex film.

For more from Simon, visit his website!

Guest Blogger: Simon Beasor

North-West based writer, copywriter & film buff, with a MA in Screenwriting from LJMU. Read more posts by Guest Blogger: Simon Beasor

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