Most biographical films, whether they focus on a single episode or a whole life, fail to live up to the person whom they are about. Jackie does not. With a presumptuous approach, the movie dares to show Jackie not just in a warts-and-all way, but to emphasize that Jackie was obsessed with effacing those warts. Director Pablo Larraín, working with DP Stéphane Fontaine, presents his vision in 35 mm/1.66:1 ratio, which, combined with roving camera work, static well-blocked shots, and intense close-ups, creates a unique look that, blended with Mica Levi’s occasionally repetitive but melancholy and dreadful score, creates a transfixing atmosphere. Though her features are not as broad as the real Jackie’s, Natalie Portman gives an outstanding performance, as does John Hurt, who plays her clear-eyed priest/confidant. Framed by an interview Jackie gave to Life magazine, the script, written by Noah Oppenheim, is full of smart dialogue that underscores Jackie’s bitterness, her insecurity, and her selfishness. What’s most surprising is that, despite being a pathetic narrative, Jackie is not a downer because it doesn’t ask for pity; the main character is not weak. You could say that, given the way the movie ends, it seems to buy into all the fairy tales it rejects, but Larraín’s intention is to celebrate life, regardless of the façade, rather than wallow in sadness. And he celebrates with verve.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White