5 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(4user reviews)

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Commandingly complex, Natalie Portman triumphs in a real-life story pitched at an unthinkable moment of national tragedy.

It starts with a face—more a mask than a face, puffy from stress and crying and a loss that few can imagine. It’s the delicate, almost distracted face of Natalie Portman, playing 34-year-old Jacqueline Kennedy during the week after her husband’s 1963 assassination, in Jackie. Right from the beginning of Pablo Larraín’s near-experimental stunner, you can tell you’re in for a psychodrama of strange, hypnotic intimacy. One should also mention the orchestral smear heard on the soundtrack: a nauseating lurch of Psycho-esque strings provided by Under the Skin’s Mica Levi, who expresses the movie’s theme of sudden change better than anyone.

Jackie is a political period piece, something Larraín, a Chilean filmmaker, is especially good at. (His late-’80s–set Augusto Pinochet electoral comedy No is better than an entire season of Veep.) But more than any of Larraín’s movies, Jackie represents a deep dive into internal catastrophe. Eclipsing her work in Black Swan, Portman flutters like a sail in a brisk wind. She is scattered, tense, wrecked and compellingly defiant in the face of those who would prefer she act a certain way. Supported by a director who often places his camera mere inches from her nose, Portman excels in a portrayal that no First Lady has ever been blessed to receive onscreen (nor any American President, come to think of it).

The smart script, by Noah Oppenheim, is designed as an expressionist framework built of disconnected moments. We see Jackie on the plane flying out of Dallas, shell-shocked as Lyndon B. Johnson takes his emergency oath of office. We watch her later that night, shedding the iconic pink suit and washing the blood and brains from her hair; it’s her first private time as a widow. Some of these scenes are simply unbearable to endure, but the ones that stay with you articulate something unusual for a grief drama: forward-thinking savvy. There is JFK’s legacy, already in question, to think about, as Jackie asks her aides about the scale of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral. She seethes her way through a touchy interview with a profile writer (Billy Crudup, superb), insisting on total control of the piece: “And I don’t smoke,” she says, exhaling a deep plume.

Running counter to Portman’s complexity is an elegantly developed strand of unfinished business. “We’re just the beautiful people,” spits Robert Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard, an equal to Portman’s commitment), furious at the thought of what his brother didn’t have time to achieve. In one of his most gorgeous pieces of support work, John Hurt plays an Irish Catholic priest attempting to guide Kennedy through the worst of her black thoughts, but even he seems uncertain. Jackie pummels you with grandeur, with its epic visions of the funeral and that terrible moment in the convertible (all of it rendered in pitch-perfect detail and a subtle 16-millimeter shudder). Yet the film’s lasting impact is dazzlingly intellectual: Just as JFK himself turned politics into image-making, his wife continued his work when no one else could.

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf


Release details

Release date:
Friday December 2 2016
99 mins

Cast and crew

Pablo Larraín
Noah Oppenheim
Natalie Portman
Peter Sarsgaard
John Hurt
Greta Gerwig
John Carroll Lynch

Users say (4)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

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‘Jackie’ is a film whose trailer does not do it justice. Slightly disjointed with startling bursts of music and an odd accent from the lead actress, it started life way down my list of ‘Awards Season Films I Must Watch’ and ended up being one of the best things I’ve seen in a very long time.

The jarring score from Micah Levy (‘Under The Skin’) starts from the first scene, plunging you into an intimate, probing and completely fascinating study of one of America’s most well-known and beloved women. It’s rare to say that a film is too short but honestly, I could have watched another hour without any hesitation at all.

Split between the present day – being interviewed by a quietly assured Billy Crudup – and the past two years of her life in the most famous address on US soil, director Pablo Larrain and actress Natalie Portman depict Jackie as someone with a core of steel running through her intelligent, dutiful & undeniably breath-taking persona. This film is about more than the story of JFK and Jackie O, the ‘beautiful people’ as Bobbie Kennedy calls them; it’s a film about grief and bereavement and a woman whose husband dies in her arms. It’s a story that happens all over the world everyday but normally without the eyes of the planet on both the victim and the surviving family and we see Jackie in both her public role – battling with the administration to ensure that her husband receives a fitting funeral – and her private life – telling Carolyn and John that their daddy is now in heaven with their brothers & sisters so that they won’t be lonely.

An excellent supporting cast include Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby, Greta Gerwig as Jackie’s confidant Nancy (the first film I’ve seen Gerwig in where she wasn’t annoyingly OTT in every scene) and John Hurt in a role made all the more touching by is recent departure from us. Visually, it’s flawless with a wardrobe for Portman that I envied in every scene without exception and a deft merging of original footage and new film. The script was taut and every single word was necessary and delivered with precision.

People have criticised this film, saying that it’s hard to get into and difficult to empathise with but I couldn’t agree less. By the end of the all-too-brief 100 minutes running time, I felt as though I’d made a friend and as though I was watching that friend deal with the hardest things anyone could be asked to handle under the watchful and often manipulative eyes of the very government they had been a part of.

When she nervously had to tour a camera crew around the White House, I rooted for her. When she stood and watched a new president be sworn in on the plane back from Texas while her husband’s still damp blood seeped through her clothing, I felt for her. When she had to pack up her home and move out to a life she had not expected and was therefore unprepared and terrified for, I ached for her. When she played ‘Camelot’ on her husband’s record player, drank vodka, wore ball gowns and looked at herself in the mirror as though she’d never once before seen the person staring back at her, I cried for her. And when the cameras left her at the end of the final scene, I wept for her, feeling as though I had abandoned her to fend for herself. This is how much the film gets under your skin.

I felt that Larrain made exactly the film he wanted to, free it seemed from the interference or suggested ‘Americanisation’ of studios who may not have trusted his vision. It is an unusual film. It is not what you would imagine a biopic of Jackie O to be. It is all the better for both of these reasons.


I had higher hopes for this film to be honest. Though in hindsight, maybe I didn't know enough about the Kennedys, as the assassination was before my time, to really feel so invested in the story....would I have felt more if it was, say Diana and the moments after her death? Or maybe it was just that the film didn't now draw me in. After all I've seen many a story about a character that isn't even real and felt truly engaged, but somehow watching Jackie felt like seeing this though the eyes of a third person. I was withdrawn from the story. 

Portman was amazing and she will, no doubt, win awards for this, and deservedly so. But despite superb acting and a somewhat morbidly fascinating tale, I just didn't warm at all to the film and even found myself at times a little bored. Some will of course love it and find the narrative and style off-beat and original. I found it cold and a little pretentious. I sensed the self-consciousness of the film making. When a film is really good, in my opinion, you forget you're actually viewing it through a camera. 

But whether you should see it or not, I couldn't say, as it really will be a case of divided opinion here.

I had read a lot of reviews of this and seen the BBC Film 2017 review of it where the critics were divided over whether Portman's portrayal was a sympathetically grieving or a cold characterisation.

As we settled into a multiple flashback structured film where only the blood splattered pink suit gives the audience context, the visual include many extreme close ups and a clear difference between Portman's in camera TV intro to the White House and her everyday voice. Both mannered but acutely different.

The camerawork and mise en scene move into a kind of cinema verite existence feelung often like do umentary rather than dramadoc.

Nobody had prepared me for the music (Mica Lvi) which had a 60s Godardian quality and very asynchronous and unsettling.

Portman makes Jackie's smile a tour de force and an interesting study of manner.

As a characterisation it was possible to see in this Jackie the determined clear headed woman who would become an international celebrity and eventually Jackie O.

This Time Out Review is, I think, spot on.. but my companion hated everything about the film.

Cinematic Marmite.

While there is no doubt that Natalie Portman did an incredible job portraying Jackie O, the movie as a whole was very slow and simple. It only looked at Jackie immediately after the death of JFK; I went in hoping that we'd see glimpses of her life before becoming a Kennedy, how she handled his affair(s), and how she continued to live months or years later. Don't expect this to be a biopic, as this focuses more on a couple of events. The movie also moved more slowly than I had hoped, and it's not even 2 hours long.