Provocative Chilean director Pablo Larraín (No) depicts the events leading up to and following the assassination of JFK through the eyes of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Natalie Portman, The Darjeeling Limited). The assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 was one of those moments that defined a generation. That this handsome, charismatic leader with a beautiful wife and two young children could have his life ended so brutally defied comprehension.
With Jackie, Pablo Larraín makes a brave choice by retelling this story solely through the eyes of Jacqueline Kennedy, casting Natalie Portman in a lead performance that is deeply intelligent and carefully measured. Jackie was as romantic a public figure as her husband, an outwardly poised partner who was placed under great scrutiny yet played her role with consummate grace. Structuring his film around Theodore H. White’s LIFE magazine interview with the First Lady at Hyannis Port a mere week after the assassination, Larraín plunges us into the devastation using a series of finely crafted flashbacks that cover the fateful day in Dallas, Jackie’s return to the White House, arrangements for the President’s funeral and her time spent accompanying her husband’s coffin to Arlington Cemetery.
These sequences complete a moving portrait of a grieving woman—a widow and mother struggling with overwhelming tragedy and attention. Yet the core of the film is formed by quiet, profoundly intimate moments: Jackie’s conversations with her children, her brother-in-law Robert Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard, Night Moves, Blue Jasmine, An Education) one of her aides (Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women, Maggie’s Plan, Frances Ha), journalist White (Billy Crudup, 20th Century Women, Spotlight), and a Catholic priest (John Hurt, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).
With the utmost care and restraint, Larraín depicts one half of the couple who inhabited America’s short-lived but still mythic time of “Camelot”—the woman who, in fact, coined that very expression. The director has moved beyond his native Chile to deliver a magnificent recreation of a defining moment in US politics and lore, and the woman we all knew as Jackie.
“Eschewing standard biopic form at every turn, this brilliantly constructed, diamond-hard character study observes the exhausted, conflicted Jackie as she attempts to disentangle her own perspective, her own legacy, and, perhaps hardest of all, her own grief from a tragedy shared by millions.” (Guy Lodge, Variety)
“Extraordinary in its piercing intimacy and lacerating in its sorrow, Jackie is a remarkably raw portrait of an iconic American first lady, reeling in the wake of tragedy while at the same time summoning the defiant fortitude needed to make her husband’s death meaningful, and to ensure her own survival as something more than a fashionably dressed footnote.” (David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter)
“Every scene is visceral. Every note played tells a story.” (April Wolfe, Village Voice)