The Film: Jackie
The Pitch: The Building of Camelot
Number of Nominations: 3
Which Categories? Best Actress, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score
Will it Win? Maybe … Natalie Portman more than deserves the nomination for her portrayal of a grieving Jackie Kennedy. She has won before (Black Swan) which might rule against her this year, and she faces strong competition from perennial Oscar favourite Meryl Streep, newcomer Ruth Negga, spunky girl next door Emma Stone (who could ride the La La Land wave), and the incomparable Isabelle Huppert, whose performance in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is the strong favourite.
Madeleine Fontaine‘s costumes are getting a lot of attention, not least her recreation of Jackie Kennedy’s famous bloodstained outfit.
Mica Levi‘s score for the film is beautiful, and you can’t ignore it – it’s mixed so high in the soundtrack it threatens to overwhelm scenes; this is probably to emphasise a grieving widow’s state of mind. Not many woman have been nominated for Best Original Score, but this might not be Levi’s year – there’s the matter of La La Land again, as well as scores for Lion, Moonlight, and Passengers.
Synopsis: After her husband is assassinated in Dallas in 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy strives to maintain a public show of strength while grieving in private and caring for their two young children. As she searches for the best way to ensure both her husband’s and her own legacies, Jackie navigates the treacherous waters of politics.
At this point can we say anything about the Kennedy myth that hasn’t already been said? How about the creation of the myth itself? That’s what Pablo Larrain has decided to do with Jackie, an intense, claustrophobic look at Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in the few days following her husband’s assassination.
The film’s structure presents a selection of takes on Jackie Kennedy: a grieving widow on the edge of a nervous breakdown; a resourceful wife; a canny manipulator of the media; an image-conscious superficial, silly, spoiled brat; a woman angry and resentful at God for taking her husband and two of her children, and an inveterate chain smoker who wouldn’t be out of place in Mad Men.
Through it all Portman mesmerises, capturing the peculiar vocal mannerisms and patrician authority of Jackie O, but also her vulnerability, will, and finally, determination. Even in moments when the script calls for her to go big, Portman holds a little back, aware, perhaps, that she’s playing an icon, and keen to make an unrelatable celebrity an identifiable human character.
She’s in almost every scene in the film, usually in close-up. This is a very invasive film, both visually and aurally – cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine isn’t a fan of the long shot, and the score is mixed too high, threatening to overwhelm some scenes (remarkably for a film with such melodramatic potential, it still feels very real – harrowing, but real: I thought that after so many JFK movies I’d seen every possible iteration of the man’s brains being blown out – it turns out I hadn’t). It was only when the end-titles appeared and I saw that Darren Aronofsky is one of the producers that it made sense. Jackie does feel, at times, like a companion piece to Black Swan, in that it matches its protagonist’s sense of growing hysteria with a suitable visual and editing style.
The great actor John Hurt died the other day, which gives his brief appearance in Jackie – as the family’s Irish priest – even more poignancy.
You can read my full review of Jackie here.
Verdict: Four Chainsmoking First Ladies out of Five