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A graceful and loving portrait

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By Paul Hall

The new film Jackie takes us inside the head of former first lady Jackie Kennedy. We’ve seen many films come along that explore the environment around the late President John F. Kennedy, but rarely, if ever, have we seen that level of intimacy in an examination of Jackie. Her struggles, pain and humanness have never been more evident than in this film.

Everyone knew Jackie (Natalie Portman) as a glamorous woman standing by her husband’s side, but in this film we see the real struggles that come with such a high-profile position. As she sits down for an interview with a reporter (Billy Crudup) after her husband’s death, Jackie recounts the vivid nature of the spotlight that is always on and what people may not have known about the internal family workings.

It is evident that it has always bothered her that the American people questioned her need to restore and remodel parts of the White House. But Jackie is clear: This is the people’s house, and the people need to be clear that real men and women walked these historic halls.

But the concern over the remodeling project is dwarfed by the newest challenge she was faced with. The assassination of her husband in Dealey Plaza in Dallas led to intense scrutiny at the hardest moment of her life. It is in those days that Jackie struggled with protecting her family and establishing what was sure to be a magnificent legacy. As the world seemed to be crumbling around her, she was able to preserve the White House and leave for a life out of the public spotlight.

Make no mistake, Natalie Portman is a bona fide star in this film. Her performance as Jackie is one that resonated through my entire being. This woman who has faced the peak of adversity in a very public setting wants her side of the story to be told, though in her way. Jackie knows how to smile at all the right times, mainly courtesy of her trusted assistant Nancy (Greta Gerwig), and knows how to act when the lights are on. This film does not work without Portman’s performance. And it’s that performance that is probably bigger than the whole of the picture.

Director Pablo Larrain doesn’t take shortcuts as we get graphic shots of the assassination. The raw emotions of Jackie and Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) are illuminated in the midst of the massive tragedy.

But through it all, the grace and collected nature the camera captures in Jackie are the focal point. I wanted to give Jackie a hug, and tell her it would all be OK. Being a movie that can so totally engross and engage its viewers is what makes Jackie special and Portman’s performance memorable. Jackie is a graceful and loving portrait of an immensely strong woman during a time that would break most of us.

Rated: R
Stars: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig
Director: Pablo Larrain

Grade: B+

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