Jackie

Pablo Larrain’s Jackie Kennedy melodrama has a sort of woozy, dreamy feel that fits with its protagonist’s shock and disorientation in the wake of her husband’s death. This is one of the things I like about it – it seems to float back and forth through time in a vaguely-Malickian fashion, admirably uncompromising and ever-so-slightly maddening in its refusal to stop and signpost things for audience members – and I also appreciate Mica Levi’s all-is-not-well score, which briefly and smartly becomes more conventional at specific moments, such as JFK’s funeral, as well as during the film’s denouement. I also appreciated Natalie Portman’s turn; it takes a little while to get used to it, but it’s consistent and effective enough for my liking – the actor has successfully portrayed a woman who is well-practiced in keeping up appearances and who decides or feels she must grieve privately (in fact this version of Jackie Kennedy only seems to let her guard down and drop the facade during a handful of scenes, when alone with characters played by Peter Saragaard, Greta Gerwig and the late John Hurt).

There are things I didn’t like at all, though, such as the hackneyed framing device featuring Billy Crudup’s sparring, pushy journo as he interviews Jackie Kennedy post-funeral; did Larrain or cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine simply run out of ideas while filming these segments, or is there a reason for all the dull, neutral, eye-level medium shots that I’m unaware of? On a similar note, the decision to place Portman centrally within the frame for many of the scenes – while understandable – eventually seems to betray a lack of ideas, though I suppose you could argue that it’s artistic stubbornness in pursuit of aesthetic consistency. It’s an unusual film with an odd tone that will probably stand the test of time and benefit from at least one repeat viewing, but as I write that I’m aware it’s just speculation. (***½)