Jackie review

Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy

Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy

Jackie is a biopic of Jackie Kennedy that mercifully eschews the conventional tropes of the genre in favour of a form that's relatively light on plot - as much as a film about the immediate aftermath of arguably the most controversial and iconic assassination in history can be considered light - since it is much more concerned with the complexity of inner life and how that intersects with a controlled public persona in which the minutest gesture is under scrutiny. (Dare I say, one cannot help but imagine the contemporary equivalent: a Melania/Ivanka Trump biopic, bookended by a Diane Sawyer interview, is probably as inevitable as death and tax breaks.)

Production values are immaculate, but the grainy 16mm film stock and minimal lighting add a layer of muted realism that prevents it becoming swamped in glossy Hollywood artifice - unlike the conceptually similar but artistically bungled Grace of Monaco - which is a credit to the good taste of director Paulo Larraín. Although it has to be said that the shadow of previously attached director Darren Aronovsky (Black Swan) looms conspicuously, at least until the aesthetic strays into Terrence Malick territory towards the end. Less conspicuously, one may also sense the influence of Jonathan Glazer, director of the underrated Birth (2004), both in its intense atmosphere of socially contained emotional tumult, and the choice of Glazer's Under the Skin composer Mica Levi for the score.

The film glows with a tactile elegance complimented by intimate camerawork which revels in Natalie Portman's exquisite face, and apart from two violent flashbacks to the Dallas motorcade, the tone, in keeping with its subject, is stately throughout until the deeply moving, transcendent finale. An additional, albeit less intentional, poignancy is supplied by a cameo from the late John Hurt as the grieving First Lady's spiritual guide ruminating on mortality.