In 'Jackie,' a frac­tured Kennedy fa­ble

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

His­tory, lately run amok, is or­dered with such tidy, force­ful fi­nesse by Natalie Port­man's Jac­que­line Kennedy in in the pierc­ing "Jackie." Sum­mon­ing a jour­nal­ist to Hyan­nis Port in 1963, not long af­ter the as­sas­si­na­tion of John F. Kennedy, she coolly sets the record for her late hus­band's legacy, coin­ing "Camelot" and shap­ing the mythol­ogy. Some de­tails that don't fit the nar­ra­tive she sim­ply crosses out. "I don't smoke," she tells the Life mag­a­zine reporter (Billy Crudup), with a cig­a­rette dan­gling be­tween her fin­gers. Pablo Lar­rain's "Jackie," a work of prob­ing in­ti­macy and shat­tered stereo­type, is an elec­tri­fy­ingly frac­tured por­trait of the for­mer First Lady. Gone is the im­age of the wan, serene Jackie.

Here, in­stead, is a savvy pub­lic-re­la­tions op­er­a­tor, a steely widow in grief and a woman re­defin­ing her­self amid tragedy. "I'm his wi-" she be­gins say­ing af­ter Dal­las. "What­ever I am now." The more com­pli­cated view of the mys­te­ri­ous Kennedy is in­spired partly by the rev­e­la­tory pri­vate in­ter­views con­ducted by Arthur M. Sch­lesinger Jr. and re­leased in 2011. She was not purely her pill­box-wear­ing pub­lic im­age, not merely a totem of grace, the can­did tapes re­vealed. Through­out "Jackie," we feel her dis­com­fort at play­ing a star­ring role in an Amer­i­can fairy tale turned night­mare. The dishar­mony, sounded by Mica Levi's knot­ted, gloomy score, is al­ways there be­tween per­sona and per­son.

Be­fore the as­sas­si­na­tion

"We're the beau­ti­ful peo­ple, right?" she sar­cas­ti­cally quips. Ex­it­ing Air Force One, she dead­pans to her hus­band (Cas­par Phillip­son), "I love crowds." In Lar­rain's hands, Kennedy's pained pub­lic per­for­mance is a kind of sac­ri­fice. "Jackie" is at once a deconstruction of the Jackie Kennedy fa­ble and a drama­ti­za­tion of its mak­ing. Penned by Noah Op­pen­heim ("The Maze Run­ner"), "Jackie" evades the tra­di­tional biopic for­mat like a dis­ease. It's or­ga­nized around the Hyan­nis Port in­ter­view with flash­backs to events large and small be­fore the as­sas­si­na­tion, dur­ing it and af­ter. Many of the scenes, quiet and empty, are shot less like flash­backs than like Kennedy's own splin­tered, haunted mem­o­ries. Some, like her tele­vised White House tour (recre­ated with black-and-white pre­ci­sion), are fa­mil­iar. Oth­ers are strik­ingly sur­real. Kennedy silently march­ing through a va­cant White House, her pink suit blood­ied from the shoot­ing, is an un­shak­able im­age that feels straight out of Kubrick.

And then there's Kennedy stomp­ing through rainy Ar­ling­ton, her heels dig­ging into the wet ground. Seek­ing a spot for what will be the Eter­nal Flame, she is, through force of will, staking a plot in his­tory for her hus­band. "Have you read what they've been writ­ing?" she first greets the reporter. "It's no way to be re­mem­bered." Port­man's Kennedy is, from the start, prob­a­bly thornier and more un­easy than the woman ever was. Port­man and Lar­rain have sharp­ened her and su­per­im­posed her story on a rig­or­ously crafted but res­o­lutely cold sur­face. "Jackie," though end­lessly fas­ci­nat­ing, can feel like a char­ac­ter study con­ducted on a sur­gi­cal ta­ble.—AP

This im­age re­leased by Fox Searchlight shows Natalie Port­man as Jackie Kennedy in the film, "Jackie." — AP pho­tos

This im­age re­leased by Fox Searchlight shows Natalie Port­man as Jackie Kennedy in a scene from the film, "Jackie."

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