“Jackie” is a revelation with a stunning turn by Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman in Jackie
One of my favorite things about the final section of a calendar year is how amazing the films tend to get. This week, one of the best movies I’ve seen in 2016 opens in Jackie. This is a tremendously compelling character study, one that grabs your attention and neve lets go. To be sure, one of the main selling points is the transcendently good central performance from Natalie Portman, but everyone pulls their weight here. It’s a special flick, one that will definitely get Academy Award attention in multiple categories. At the moment, it’s my third favorite movie of 2016 so far. High praise, I know, but well deserving of it. Jackie is something special, plain and simple.

The film is a look at Jacqueline Kennedy (Portman), centered on the days following the assassination of her husband, President John F Kennedy. Scenes are set either before the murder, showing life in the White House, in the immediate aftermath when Jackie fought for a proper memorial to honor her late husband, or during an interview a bit after with a reporter (Billy Crudup). We see her struggle in all manner, while others, including Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) look on. It’s deeply powerful stuff. Pablo Larrain directs a script from Noah Oppenheim. Other cast members include Max Casella, Greta Gerwig, Richard E. Grant, John Hurt, John Carroll Lynch, Caspar Phillipson, and more. A haunting score comes courtesy of Mica Levi, while cinematography is by Stéphane Fontaine.

Without question, Natalie Portman deserves another nomination for this role. Hell, if she wins, it would be incredibly deserving as well (competition is fierce though, as you all know by now). She’s never been better. The direction is also outstanding, with Larrain immediately becoming an A-list talent in my eyes. They make you feel as if you’re a fly on the wall back in those dark days. Levi’s score is phenomenal, while the pacing is perfect. It all just works. I can’t tell you how impressed I was. Frankly, I just can’t wait for all of you to get the chance to see it for yourselves. If only for Portman, you’ll be blown away, but the movie has so much more to offer than just her central turn.

Awards wise, Jackie could clean up, in terms of Oscar nominations. Look for campaigns in Best Picture, Best Director (for Larrain), Best Actress (for Portman), Best Supporting Actor (for Sarsgaard), Best Supporting Actress (for Gerwig), Best Original Screenplay (for Oppenheim), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Original Score. There’s a day where the film comes close to double digit nominations, but it could also just wind up with as little as only Portman in Actress. The truth is somewhere in between, probably in the three to six range. Picture, Actress for Portman, and Original Screenplay for Oppenheim are the main goals, with Director for Larrain and Supporting Actor for Sarsgaard possibilities as well. Below the line will be a crapshoot, honestly. Time will tell, but it’s a pretty easy flick to root for.

Basically, we have a near masterpiece in Jackie opening this weekend. Larrain’s filmmaking and Portman’s acting shine brightest, but this is a success up and down the line. Is it a bit on the cold side? Sure, but plenty of stunning achievements are. They do an impeccable job of putting you in her shoes, and that deserves to be recognized in a big way. This will be getting a limited release in a few days, with an expansion to come, so make it your business to see it. Don’t you dare miss out on this one folks. Oscar won’t, so you shouldn’t either…

Be sure to check out Jackie, beginning its theatrical run this Friday!

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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