In Pablo Larraín’s Jackie, The White House frames Jacqueline Kennedy the way castles frame their queens. The definitive First Lady of the 1960s, who also earned herself the title of a fashion icon, made that place her home; her appreciation of fine decor and relics appearing in almost every room. It makes sense then, that Larraín’s eagerly awaited biopic of the icon feels like the kind of film Kennedy herself would make; astute, swooningly good-looking and blessed with an extraordinary leading lady.
It’s almost an injustice to label this a ‘biopic’, as it manages to right the wrongs of the many horror stories that have come before it. It succeeds, in part, thanks to its framing of the First Lady’s life. While most films tend to spend several hours sheepishly going from A to Z, Jackie manages to define a lifetime perfectly in a matter of days, executing it all in a smidgen over ninety minutes.
Natalie Portman’s captivating turn in the titular role feels like a career-defining performance for the actress. Adopting Kennedy’s soft and breathy Southampton accent and replicating her poise perfectly, she pervades every moment of the film, leaving little room for her (primarily male) co-stars. Larraín knows of Portman’s power here. Despite the fact that we meet Kennedy in the days that follow the assassination of her husband, a time at which she’s undoubtedly her most vulnerable, her presence is still formidable and sharp-tongued. We have both Kennedy herself and the film’s screenwriter, Noah Oppenheim, to thank for that. Oppenheim penned the script for Jackie some six years ago, grabbing a spot on The Blacklist in the process. The way he navigates these days, told in hindsight from the perspective of Jackie’s first interview since her husband’s death, provides us with a vision of the First Lady’s life that merges the persistence of her character with the sullenness of it too.
Blessing the entire thing with a brilliantly orchestrated section of soaring strings and morose melodies: Mica Levi. The London-based musician last impressed with her spine-tingling score for Jonathan Glazer’s masterful sci-fi Under the Skin. Here, she continues to flex her movie scoring muscles with a perfectly pitched original score – one that, this time, shouldn’t go over the heads of the Academy.