Jackie review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
JFK’s assassination has slowly risen to become a quintessential zeitgeist equivalent to a Shakespearean tragedy of the 20th century. After all, even today’s polls put people on the fence when it comes to who was the perpetrator, planner, and executor of the infamous deed, as well as the motivations and logistics behind this earth-shattering event. With all of that being said, the political figure of Kennedy still remains intact and idolized – despite the scrutiny of his brief occupation at the White House and the politics that he brought to the table. And so, Pablo Larrain's Jackie tells of his legacy through none other than Jackie Kennedy, who tries to put the pieces together after the unexpected death of her beloved husband John.
The film uses an interview between the widow Kennedy and a reporter to retell the events of the past week as the occurred from the focal point of Jackie. Which is where the film’s weakest point lies; namely, the screenplay gravitates towards building a conflict out of nothing, which ultimately surmounts to nothing in particular – nor it gets a worthy conclusion of this narrative thread. Nonetheless, Jackie is still a force to be reckoned with: both on-screen and personality-wise as well.
Then we have the flashbacks, which play out in a non-linear fashion, intersecting the events surrounding Jackie’s stay at the white house with her grievances after the key event took place. The nature of how all of this is told may potentially divide moviegoers into two fronts: those who seek linear storytelling to crave their appetites, and those who lean more on the disgruntled fashion of director Pablo Larrain's unconventional choices side. Whatever the case, Jackie does not implicitly convey these narrative dissonances, but rather it takes them as granted, plays with them, and derives a truly unique experience masked as a biopic of JFK murder’s aftershock.
Despite all of that however, Jackie is not about JFK; it’s a character study of Jackie Kennedy trying to cope with the overwhelming grief that hangs above her demeanor like cloud full of rain that’s just about to burst. Lazy analogies aside, this is extremely well captured through the use of a grainy 16mm shot, combined with a 1.66:1 aspect ratio and a tight framing. It’s no wonder too, since the film’s cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine is perfectly aware on how to capture subtle emotions on screen, without it seeming too blatantly obvious, or god forbid: by using handheld. And so, the surrounding façade tells perfectly of Natalie Portman’s character emotions (Jackie), her responds to the situation-at-hand, her wants and needs, and her deep sorrow as conveyed via the bleak interior in which the interview takes place.
Finally, Jackie is a very interesting film, and going in it would require leaving some preconceptions and expectations at the door, which you can undoubtedly pick up later.