By Luciana Leitão
It is anything but straightforward. The film Jackie portrays the life of Jacqueline Kennedy, immediately after the public assassination of the former president of the United States, John F. Kennedy. It is a biopic directed by the Chilean director Pablo Larraín about one of the most famous figures of the 20th century, but, contrarily to what one may imagine, it is not the equivalent to the deification of this historical figure. Instead, it is an intimate, complex and deep portrait.
What amazed me the most in this film is it covers only the four days that followed the assassination of John F. Kennedy, yet it manages to contain so much in it. The whole story is centered on Theodore H. White’s Life magazine interview with Jackie, here played by the fantastic Natalie Portman. Jackie is arrogant, defensive, bully, she wishes to control the outcome of the interview, she outbursts, she is real and she is elegant in her grief. She is vulnerable and graceful, filled with contradictory moments and beliefs, uncertain on what to do to make the best at protecting her husband’s memory.
Natalie Portman, who in nothing resembles the real-life character, does an amazing job. She has the poise, the elegance and the right accent. The self-assurance and fragility, which the real-life character had. It is a private view on such a public and acclaimed figure.
Being a popular figure for the Americans, it would be easy enough to fall into the loving-widow-simplistic view. Yet, Pablo Larraín, is far from it — he shows a multi-layered dimension on the North-American’s historic first lady. The narrative is not straightforward — it moves within the interview to show the tragic day in Dallas, the arranging of the funeral, her days in the White House, and sometimes it mixes them almost at the same time.
Larraín (director) coupled with Noah Oppenheim (writer) prepare something that intrigues and leaves the right sentiment, which is not really a deification of someone who is already loved by history. It is rather the portrait of a woman who lost her husband, who happened to be the president of the United States, and who does her best to console her children and granting him a dignified farewell, suitable to the position he upheld.
Larraín’s frequent closeups of Portman makes this biopic raw and real. Complex, as the real character. With three nominations for the Oscars, Jackie is beautiful because it is not a typical Oscar favourite. And that grants truthfulness to the story it tells.