Natalie Portman and “Jackie” are the Oscar race’s newest contenders

Natalie Portman in Jackie
Every once in a blue moon, a hunch of mine seems to pay off. A few times over the past month or so, I’ve listed Jackie as a dark horse Academy Award contender across the board, and not just for Natalie Portman’s turn as the former First Lady. It has a chance to go real far, something that the festival reviews so far have confirmed. Now, they also claim that it’s a little on the unusual side, which makes certain honors harder, but Portman in Best Actress seems like a likely occurrence at least. With Fox Searchlight having acquired it and officially dated it for a December release, it’s in the running, no doubt about that. The question is just how far it can go? Tomorrow when I drop new Oscar predictions, you’ll get a sense, but until then, we can discuss a bit now.

The film is a glimpse into a few haunting days in the life of Jackie Kennedy (Portman). Following the tragic assassination of her husband President John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson), the First Lady fights through grief and trauma in order to comfort her children, while also defining her husband’s historic legacy. A famous tour of the White House is depicted, along with an interview of some note. Pablo Larraín directs an already award winning script from Noah Oppenheim, while there’s a large ensemble cast on display. Just a sample includes Max Casella, Billy Crudup, Greta Gerwig, Richard E. Grant, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, along with many others. Filmmaker in his own right Darren Aronofsky is one of the producers, having originally intended to make the project himself. Cinematography is from Stéphane Fontaine, while Mica Levi provides a score that has gotten a lot of attention.

So far, reviews have been glowing. Especially gushing praise has been given to Portman’s performance in the title role, Larraín’s direction, Oppenheim’s script, and Levi’s score. Some have even spoken of Portman as the one to beat in Best Actress. That might be a bit too presumptuous, but it seems highly likely that she’s be in the top tier of the category. It sounds like a captivating film and one I can’t wait to see, as I’ve been anticipating it since Aranofsky was initially involved years ago. The potential for something special has apparently been fulfilled, with Oscar possibly set to come calling.

Natalie Portman
Awards wise, Jackie is just about a lock in one place, but has the chance to contend everywhere if it really hits. Look for Fox Searchlight to launch campaigns in Best Picture, Best Director (for Larraín), Best Actress (for Portman), Best Supporting Actor (for Sarsgaard), Best Original Screenplay (for Oppenheim), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Hairstyling & Makeup, and Best Original Score. Actress is likely a sure thing for Portman now, with a win maybe even being possible, while Picture and Original Screenplay could happen if there’s a groundswell. Hell, even keep a look out for Original Score, if this becomes one of the year’s bigger contenders.

Basically, Jackie appears to be a very big deal and a premiere 2016 biopic. Fox Searchlight seems to be rather high on it, and rightly so, according to the festival buzz. Portman will be the focus, but as the precursor season evolves, we could see the entire movie get a ton of love. It’s just one of many possibilities, but as mentioned above, look for my predictions update tomorrow for an idea of what their best case scenario might wind up being. Sit tight until then, and know that we’ll have more to say on this one in the very near future…

Stay tuned for much more on Jackie between now and the end of December!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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