TIFF — Natalie Portman is Phenomenal in Pablo Larrain’s Finely Crafted Biopic “Jackie”

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Besides being an American icon, a style maven, and the cousin of the Grey Gardens ladies, not much is known about former first lady Jackie Kennedy. What we have seen and heard about her is surface has all been pop culture lore, but director Pablo Larrain changes the direction of her typical narrative with JACKIE, a portrait of her as a complex and vulnerable woman rather than a poised debutant in a pillbox hat.

Jackie flashes back and forth between defining moments during Jackie’s life framed around the interview between her and Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup) for “Life” magazine a week after the assassination of her husband, JFK. The interview soon becomes more than a piece of journalism; it serves as a therapy session that takes us on a journey from her life as the dignified First Lady who gave a televised tour of the White House to a horrified wife who cradled her dying husband’s head in her arms. Jackie shows a completely different side of Jackie Kennedy as she navigates through her own agony and trauma while also consoling her children and attempting to define her husband’s historic legacy.

The Academy Award-winning actress is set for a wave of nominations with this astonishingly nuanced portrayal of the former First Lady. There have been many “Jackies” in TV and film, but none like Natalie Portman’s. Too many times have we seen her solely as a beacon of style and grace, but Larrain’s stage for Jackie allows the audience to see all the cracks and flaws – the unraveling of a grieving woman who is attempting to stay strong for her family as well as herself. We see Jackie as a human being with living, breathing personality.

Without a doubt, Portman owns every second of the film. From the first minute we see her on the screen with that iconic haircut, she disappears into the role. In what could have been a caricature of a public figure, Portman delivers a powerful performance that is wrought with emotion and seething with commitment. We see her don a cordial smile tinged with uncertainty as she makes public appearances before her husband’s death. Afterwards, we see her tortured as she walks through a gauntlet of feelings as she organizes her husband’s funeral and comes to term with her next move in life. But it’s the intimate conversation between Jackie and White in which Portman takes control, literally writing the story of her life and JFK’s legacy the way she deems worthy.

Larrain, with a screenplay penned by Noah Oppenheim, mindfully and brilliantly paints a grieving portrait of a woman overwhelmed by the aftermath of her husband’s death. More character study than First Lady biopic, Portman, with a breathy mid-Atlantic accent and pristine demeanor, brings this film to life with a mind-blowing performance that immerses you in the tragedy, struggle, and – ultimately – grace of one of the most revered figures in American culture.

TB-TV-Grade-A
Rated: TBD
Running time: 95 minutes

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watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.

Twitter: @dinoray

Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer

For more of our coverage of TIFF 2016, click here.

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