Posted on Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 by Jack Giroux
Director Pablo Larraín‘s (The Club) Jackie left more than a favorable impression at the Venice Film Festival. Larraín’s English language debut about the first lady Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) scored rave reviews, with critics praising the filmmaker’s unconventional approach to the biopic and a potential career best performance from Portman. So far, the reviews are almost nothing but effusive.
Below, check out the early buzz from the first Jackie reviews.
We got our first look at Portman in the Darren Aronofsky-produced picture almost a year ago. Noah Oppenheim‘s (The Maze Runner) script was ranked no. 2 on the 2010 blacklist, and his script went on to attract Portman, Peter Sarsgaard (playing Robert Kennedy), Greta Gerwig (Pamela Turnure, Jacqueline’s press secretary), John Hurt (a priest), Billy Crudup (a journalist), and Max Casella (Jack Valenti, who was in the motorcade). Jackie depicts the immediate aftermath of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and the toll it took on Jacqueline Kennedy. Based on the reviews, Larraín’s depiction of these days is hardly standard biopic fare.
Here’s some excerpts from the first Jackie reviews:
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. Provocative and entirely unsentimental in the speculative voice given to its subject’s most private thoughts on marriage, faith and self-image, and galvanized by Natalie Portman’s complex, meticulously shaded work in the lead, “Jackie” may alienate viewers expecting a more conventionally sympathetic slab of filmed history. But in his first English-language project, Chilean director Larraín’s status as the most daring and prodigious political filmmaker of his generation remains undimmed.
This is a portrait of a famously tragic figure delivered without a lick of condescension or mawkishness, which is possible because Larraín is interested in Jackie not in the context of the enormous historical events that surround and often dwarf her in our collective minds, but as a human being, from the inside out, whose life experience when viewed from within encompassed those events, but was bigger than them. He and Portman funnel agency, wit and flashes of hard-won wisdom into the portrayal throughout, and it cumulatively builds to a film that, for all the layers of performativity and artificiality, is quite devastatingly human.
Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín certainly isn’t beating around the bush with his latest film, Jackie, a strange, refreshingly cynical, and unexpectedly cerebral account of former First Lady’s Jacqueline Kennedy’s actions in the immediate aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. It’s one of three films to be released by the prolific director in 2016 (alongside El Club and Neruda), as well as his first to be made in the United States and English. Such changes in surroundings might have thrown a lesser director off, or at least compromised their style, but Larraín’s conviction, signature moves, and leftward-leaning politics appear to have remained intact. Produced by Darren Aronofsky and boasting a staggering, disorientating string-based soundtrack from Mica Levi (Under the Skin), Jackie has the sophisticated psychological aesthetic of a Jonathan Glazer movie but focuses on one of the most contentious and traumatic events in U.S. history. How’s that for radical filmmaking?
The movie’s gut punch owes part of its exceptional force to Mica Levi’s emotionally charged score, its requiem-style strings heavy with sorrow, sometimes distorted to express a surreal state of warped reality (reminiscent of her fabulous work on Under the Skin). In one gorgeous passage, military drums come in softly over strings and piano as Jackie considers burial sites at Arlington.
There’s also brilliant use of songs from the Lerner & Loewe musical Camelot, a name steeped in legend that would forever be associated with the Kennedy administration, for better or worse. Larrain’s tremendously moving portrait rescues one of the key players from that shorthand sobriquet, revealing her as a creature of infinite psychological and emotional complexity.
It is the quiet moments with John Hurt’s gentle priest, however, that grant us the biggest glimpse into Jackie’s soul. She wrestles with her faith, saying, “I think God is evil,” and later alludes to her husband’s wandering eye, confessing that, “Jack and I hardly ever spent the night together.” She worries about men’s perception of her, asking, “When men see me, what do you think they feel?” later lamenting how “I used to make them smile.” And Portman handles these scenes with a delicateness and quiet dignity that proves nothing short of mesmerizing. There is much to like about Jackie, from the pitch-perfect period detail to Noah Oppenheim’s inspired script, but it’s Portman’s portrait of grief that will linger long after the credits roll.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Jackie review praises Mica Levi‘s score to the greatest extent, but most of the reviews make mention of the Under the Skin composer. The musician’s work on Jackie is only her second film score to date, and it sounds like her sophomore effort is just as hypnotic as the unnerving sounds she conjured up for Jonathan Glazer‘s film. We’re not sure when the rest of the world will be able to hear her new score, as Jackie is currently without a distributor and a release date, but after the response out of the Venice Film Festival, we should expect that to change soon.
In the meantime, you can watch a clip from the film (Via The Film Stage):
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