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Film review: Jackie – Natalie Portman portrays JFK’s widow in intimate and intelligent portrait

The assassination of the US president may be gloomy subject matter, but this film, which also stars Billy Crudup and John Hurt, avoids a history lesson in favour of in-depth character study

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 February, 2017, 7:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 February, 2017, 7:02am

3.5/5 stars

Jackie is funereal by nature, as it revolves around Jackie Kennedy’s plans for John F. Kennedy’s funeral. But despite the all-enveloping gloom it musters, the film is watchable until the end. This is partly because of Natalie Portman’s delicate, superlative performance as the widow, and partly because the script views a famous event from a perspective that we don’t usually see.

Viewers who can stomach morbidity will find a sharp and intelligent film, which begins after the assassination of JFK in 1963, with Jackie inviting a journalist (Billy Crudup) from Life magazine to listen to her version of the events.

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We see some grainy black-and-white footage of her showing a television crew around the White House in a time before the assassination, but most of the flashbacks take place immediately after the event.

Jackie wants everyone to march eight blocks beside the coffin to the service, but the Secret Service are understandably scared stiff of another murder attempt. Meanwhile, the new president, Lyndon Johnson (John Carroll Lynch), tries to jockey his way out of JFK’s overpowering shadow.

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Politics is given a back seat, and that’s what makes Jackie interesting – it unspools as a deep character study of its subject rather than a history lesson. Director Pablo Larrain ( No ) doesn’t hold back, and even has Jackie describe the moment of the bullet’s impact to the cameras. The result is a sad and poignant view of a true American tragedy.

Jackie opens on February 9

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