Jackie, a movie written by Noah Oppenheim and helmed by Chilean director Pablo Lahraín and starring Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy is a small sketch of the widowed first lady in the weeks, days, and hours after the assassination of her husband. It is at once a beautiful portrait and a mosaic with myriad hairline cracks.
Though it is collage, the script is simple. It could have done more to highlight the hope brought on by JFK and expose his many failures as a man and husband. The first job of a director is to get good performances from his actors. It seems Lahraín gave too much focus to Portman and zero attention to the others.
The performances are just that. Because there is not a lot of room to breathe, both because of the compression of time and the horror of the event the film is about, there is little character development, and, despite the films aims these historical figures still don’t feel like real human beings. Portman is great at times, but it feels very much like “acting,” and, additionally, there are problems with several parts of her attempts at the New England accent and diction. Sarsgaard barely tries the Bobby Kennedy accent, which is probably a good thing. John Hurt as an Irish Catholic priest is a high point.
The cinematography done by Stéphane Fontaine is great, especially for a film that takes place mostly in small rooms. The blending of archival footage with the stellar photography of the film is an extraordinary feat. It is beautiful to look at even though it is so very sad.