I’ll admit that I was not excited about Jackie when the project was first announced back in 2012 (was it really that long ago?). I was picturing a forgettable, paint by numbers biopic, and didn’t feel like Natalie looked the part of Jacqueline Kennedy. But when it was announced that Darren Aronofsky was involved in the production and Pablo Larraín was directing, I became more hopeful that Jackie could be something special. After the all the glowing reviews started pouring in earlier this year, I was impatient to see the finished film. Now that I have, I don’t feel like there’s much to say that hasn’t already been said. The hype is real, guys.
I told Dazza I wasn’t going to write a review, but he twisted my arm. I’m still not going to review the film, but I am going to review Natalie’s performance in it. There were some comments made earlier this year in regards to me being a fake fan and never having anything nice to say about Natalie, so I’d like to take this opportunity to sing her praises. I’ll be honest—I haven’t loved her post-Black Swan projects. Her role in the Thor movies was thankless, the disastrous Jane Got a Gun production was much ado about nothing, and my thoughts on the unbearably pretentious and self-indulgent Knight of Cups can be summed up as, “Ugh.” But that never had anything to do with Natalie herself. And after six years, it was so nice to finally see a film that didn’t waste her talent and made me really proud to call myself a fan.
In the past, I had often heard that while Natalie Portman is a competent actress, she can’t carry a movie on her own. Even after her tour de force performance in Black Swan, and despite taking home a mountain of best actress awards in 2011, I still saw criticism that the role of a fragile woman-child played too much to Natalie’s strengths and weaknesses as an actress. The performance she delivers in Jackie completely banishes that skepticism.
This is the most incredible role of her career, full stop. Of all the actresses to portray the iconic First Lady, Natalie physically resembles her the least (too delicate, too beautiful), but embodies her like no other before her. Natalie’s portrayal of a woman’s tightly controlled grief and horror, simmering anger threatening to boil over, and quiet determination to leave a legacy is like nothing she’s ever done before. Natalie slips into the role of the restrained Jackie Kennedy just as effortlessly as she does the histrionic Nina Sayers. Her presence in this film is more regal than when she was playing literal queens in The Phantom Menace and The Other Boleyn Girl. She commands every scene she’s in, many of them without dialogue. She even nails Jackie’s affected mid-Atlantic accent, and her “public” and “private” voices.
Jackie isn’t at all what I had originally envisioned; it’s an engrossing slice of history told from a new perspective and a nuanced, complex portrait of a woman in crisis, portrayed masterfully by Natalie Portman. The Oscar is hers to lose. Don’t miss out on seeing this movie if you get the chance.