Monday, November 27, 2017

Jackie (2016 film)




Directed by Pablo Larrain and written by Noah Oppenheim, Jackie is the story about Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis who deals with the death of her husband John F. Kennedy and the plans for his funeral while looking back at her time when she was the First Lady of the United States. The film is an unconventional bio-pic of sorts as it follows Onassis’ time as the First Lady and dealing with the shocking death of her husband as Natalie Portman plays Jacqueline Kennedy. Also starring Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Carroll Lynch, Richard E. Grant, Beth Grant, and John Hurt. Jackie is an evocative and rapturous film from Pablo Larrain.

The film revolves around Jacqueline Kennedy’s days following the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22, 1963 as she plans for the funeral and such while talking to a journalist (Billy Crudup) less than a month later after the funeral. Told in a non-linear narrative, Noah Oppenheim’s script follows Jackie as she talks about her time in the White House with brief glimpses of life as the First Lady as well as the events of the assassination and its aftermath. The interview with the un-named journalist, which is based partially on Theodore H. White’s article for Life magazine, has Kennedy talking about her work as First Lady that included restoring rooms at the White House that was filmed for a TV program. Yet, the bulk of the narrative has Jackie talking about the funeral procession and planning for her husband as she looks to historical events of the past for inspiration while dealing with the loss she’s carrying.

Pablo Larrain’s direction is stylish for the way it captures a period in time as it has a looseness in its approach to compositions and how it captures history. With many of the interiors shot in a studio in Paris, France with the funeral procession shot on location in Washington D.C., Larrain would aim for something simpler as he doesn’t go for a lot of wide shots with the exception of the funeral scenes. Much of his compositions aim for close-ups and medium shots while the film is shot largely on a 1:66:1 aspect ratio with the exception of Jackie’s TV special where she gives a tour of the White House which is shot in the 1:33:1 aspect ratio and in grainy black-and-white. Larrain’s approach to those scenes have him recreate the idea of what 1960s TV looked like with shots of Jackie being filmed by a crew as there is a tracking shot following her every move until it cuts to her in black-and-white. It’s among some of the stylistic choices in the film while there is also the scenes of the day of the assassination where Larrain shoots a medium shot of Jackie getting ready for the motorcade while there is a lot happening in the background.

Larrain’s direction also captures the events of the assassination and the bloody aftermath that is inter-cut with Jackie talking to the journalist about what she remembers and telling him what not to print. Even as Larrain would film scenes of Jackie’s meeting with a priest (John Hurt) where she deals with mortality and wonders why her husband had to die as it is among one of the finest sequences on film. There are also these intimate moments involving Jackie’s relationship with her brother-in-law Bobby (Peter Sarsgaard) and her personal secretary Nancy Tuckerman (Great Gerwig) that helps humanize Jackie who is coping with her grief as well as wanting to honor her husband in a way that leaders with big ideas would be honored. The film would culminate the funeral procession as it is a moment where all of the grief and trauma that Jackie faced. She maintains the sense of dignity that is needed in the role of First Lady. Overall, Larrain creates an intoxicating and riveting film about Jacqueline Kennedy’s time following the assassination of her husband.

Cinematographer Stephane Fontaine does incredible work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of naturalistic colors and lighting to play into many of the exteriors in the day along with some low-key lighting for some of the interiors as well as scenes set at night. Editor Sebastian Sepulveda does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and other stylized cuts to play into the film’s non-linear narrative and Jackie’s own reflection of the events. Production designer Jean Rabasse, with set decorator Veronique Melery plus art directors Halina Gebarowicz, Mathieu Junot, and Emmanuel Prevot, does amazing work with recreation of the interiors of the White House including some of the famous bedrooms and the exterior sets of where Kennedy was to be buried. Costume designer Madeline Fontaine does amazing work with the costumes from the famed pink coat and hat Jackie wore on the day of the assassination to some of the gowns and such she would wear at various events of the past.

Makeup designers Sarai Fiszel and Odile Fourquin, with key hairstylists Janice Kinigopoulos and Catherine Leblanc, do fantastic work with the look of the hairstyles that the women had including Jackie’s hairstyle. Visual effects supervisors Thomas Duval, Sebastian Rame, and Tomas Roca do terrific work with some of the visual effects as it is mainly set-dressing with some recreation of the funeral procession and the way Jackie’s TV special is presented in its grainy footage. Sound designer David Miranda does superb work with the sound in the way some of the quieter moments at the White House are presented to scenes at Arlington and Jackie’s meeting with the priest where it has a natural atmosphere in the sound. The film’s music by Mica Levi is phenomenal for its orchestral score with its eerie usage of string arrangements and low-key textures to play into the drama while music supervisor Bridget Samuels provides a soundtrack that consists of a few classical pieces and a cut from the musical Camelot which Jackie plays on a record player.

The casting by Lindsay Graham, Jessica Kelly, Mathilde Snodgrass, and Mary Vernieu is remarkable as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Sunnie Pelant as Caroline Kennedy, Brody and Aiden Weinberg as John F. Kennedy Jr., Julie Judd as Bobby’s wife Ethel, and Caspar Phillipson as President John F. Kennedy. John Carroll Lynch is terrific as Lyndon Johnson who would become the new President of the United States of America as he tries to give Jackie advice about the funeral while Beth Grant is wonderful as Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson who also wants to help as she also prepares for her new role as First Lady. Max Casella is superb as Jack Valienti who was Johnson’s assistant at the time where he also tries to organize the funeral service while Richard E. Grant is fantastic as William Walton who is Jackie’s collaborator in the White House restoration project as he helps her in the historical research for what she wanted for her husband’s funeral procession.

In one of his final film performances, John Hurt is excellent as the priest who meets Jackie to discuss faith as well as giving his views of what happened where it is this very restrained yet calm performance as it is one of Hurt’s finest performances. Billy Crudup is brilliant as the journalist who interviews Jackie at her home in Massachusetts as he tries to understand some of the answers Jackie is giving him as well as what he should tell the press. Greta Gerwig is amazing as Nancy Tuckerman as Jackie’s personal secretary who is Jackie’s director during the TV special for the White House restoration while also being a close confidant in being someone to talk to as it’s an understated yet touching performance from Gerwig. Peter Sarsgaard is marvelous as Bobby Kennedy as the then-Attorney General and Jackie’s brother-in-law who is trying to help Jackie with the funeral arrangements as well as doing his job and shielding her from any news that could upset her.

Finally, there’s Natalie Portman in what is definitely a performance for the ages as Jacqueline Kennedy. It’s a performance that is this fine mixture of radiance, restraint, anguish, and grace where Portman definitely disappears into the character where she captures many of the nuances and attributes of Jackie without deviating into an impersonation. Instead, Portman provides that air of dignity in Jackie in the way she copes with grief and the trauma of seeing her husband killed in front of her as well as the way she tries to maintain this role of regality that is needed in being a First Lady where it is definitely Portman in a career-defining performance.

Jackie is a tremendous film from Pablo Larrain that features an outstanding leading performance from Natalie Portman in the titular role. Along with its great supporting cast, inventive script by Noah Oppenheim, gorgeous visuals, top-notch technical work, and Mica Levi’s ravishing score. It’s a film that doesn’t play by the rules of a bio-pic by focusing on a specific time in the life of one of the great First Ladies in American history as she is aware of role in American history and how she tries to maintain that sense of dignity for herself and her husband. In the end, Jackie is a magnificent film from Pablo Larrain.

Pablo Larrain Films: (Fuga) – (Tony Manero) – (Post Mortem) – No (2012 film) - (The Club (2015 film)) – (Neruda)

© thevoid99 2017

8 comments:

Brittani Burnham said...

This was one of my favorites from last year. Portman was robbed of that Oscar.

Wendell Ottley said...

I didn't mention it in my own (mini) review, but you're right about the look of this film being striking and capturing 60s TV and film perfectly. And Portman was just fantastic.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see this, especially for Natalie Portman.

Courtney said...

I still think Portman secretly deserved the Oscar over the Oscar darling Emma Stone. Meh.

Alex Withrow said...

Great review. I love Fontaine's camerawork in this film. It was arguably my favorite thing about the movie, along with Portman's fearless performance.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-Having finally seen Jackie, I must say that yes... Portman was robbed. If she had lost to Isabelle Huppert for Elle, I would've been fine with that. Nothing against Emma Stone who was great in La La Land but Portman was just on another level.

@Wendell-It was something I noticed immediately and I got drawn into the visual aspects of the film where it felt like a complete recreation of what we were seeing.

@vinnieh-See this or PO'TMAN MOTHAFUCKA will make you her bitch.

@Courtney-Totally, PO'TMAN MOTHAFUCKA would gore Emma Stone to get that Oscar and then call out the rest of the Bullet Club to help her.

@Alex Withrow-Thank you. Fontaine's cinematography was gorgeous as there was so much about the film that I loved. Notably for PO'TMAN MOTHAFUCKA!

TheVern said...

I agree with Brittani that Portman and others may have deserved the Oscar more. I loveed Emma Stone in La La Land, but she was more of a Golden Globe Winner and not the Oscar one. I need to rewatch this. It was on my list of favorite films of 2016

thevoid99 said...

@TheVern-I agree with you that Stone was more of a Golden Globe winner than an Oscar winner. I definitely want to see Jackie again which is very likely since it's on HBO.