Friday, August 17, 2018
Things To Do

Review: Natalie Portman brilliantly portrays a dignified, tormented 'Jackie'

Pablo Larrain's Jackie begins on a mournful musical note then gets sadder from there. This intimate, highly speculative profile of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, chiefly set only days after America's promise lay splattered in her lap, couldn't have a happy ending.

Instead, Larrain spins a tale of dignified anguish and calculations less sympathetic. Anchored by Natalie Portman's uncanny impersonation — wispy voice, aristocratic posture — Jackie fascinates and frustrates, sometimes at once. We can't be certain any of her actions here are true. Some don't seem likely.

Noah Oppenheim's screenplay is inspired by an interview Kennedy gave Life magazine journalist Theodore H. White one week after her husband's murder. Billy Crudup takes the inquisitor role, billed only as "the Journalist" and clearly Kennedy's pawn in their words skirmish. She and White were acquaintances in real life but strangers here, creating tension that isn't always flattering but is effective.

Larrain continually flips between three time frames: a televised tour of the White House in 1961, introducing America to executive grandeur with a new, vibrant style; the interview at her Hyannis Port mansion; and Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, as usual for a JFK movie but not from this perspective or as graphic. We get a sense of her discomfort in the spotlight, fierce defense of her husband's legacy and that day's shock to her system, respectively.

Some speculations are crushing details so personal they escape curiosity: rinsing off her husband's blood in a shower or smearing it like makeup; telling two children their father is dead; barging into JFK's autopsy.

Other speculations are outright incredible: Would Kennedy really swill wine and martinis while trying on high fashion and listening to the Camelot soundtrack, hours after the president's assassination? Would new first lady Lady Bird Johnson have decorators in the White House the very next day? There's a detour on the way to JFK's funeral to a conversation with a priest (John Hurt) whose vows enable Oppenheim to speak for himself more than his subject.

Larrain's film suggests Kennedy's toying with the Journalist — jumping off the record after the exposing fact — is intended to manufacture the Camelot myth gilding her husband's less-than-one term in office. She sounds uncertain that he accomplished enough to be remembered like a Lincoln and not a Garfield or McKinley, both assassinated footnotes to history.

Oppenheim's version of events is debatable but not Portman's portrayal or Larrain's talent, in his first English language feature after two fact-based dramas (No and Neruda) set in his native Chile. For all its somber notes, Jackie is sturdy filmmaking, its Dallas sequences in particular so crisply staged and edited. Larrain elicits four strong performances besides Portman's from supporters Crudup, Hurt, Greta Gerwig as Kennedy's assistant and Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy.

But this is Portman's showcase, a performance more daring in some respects than her Oscar-winning turn in Black Swan. Whether this role is who Jacqueline Kennedy was doesn't matter when portrayed with such genteel intensity, such image-busting grief. When that opening musical note dives into despair Portman rises, bringing the movie with her.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

Comments
Travis Scott coming to Tampa

Travis Scott coming to Tampa

Travis Scott is the man of the moment right now in hip-hop, with his latest album, the hugely anticipated Astroworld, sitting at No. 1 in the nation.Now he's about to take Astroworld on the road. And his tour will include Tampa.Scott announced cities...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Sports on TV/radio for Friday, August 17

TODAYAutosXfinity: Food City 300 qualifying3:30 p.m.NBCSNXfinity: Food City 3007:30 p.m.NBCSNBaseballMets at Phillies6 p.m.MLBRays at Red Sox7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMMarlins at Nationals7 p.m.FSFAstros at A’s10 p.m.MLBBaseball, Little League World Series...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Dining events: Bolts Brew Fest, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

Dining events: Bolts Brew Fest, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

Beer with the Lightning?
Updated: 11 hours ago
This week's best concerts: Journey, Def Leppard, Wiz Khalifa, Lindsey Stirling, more

This week's best concerts: Journey, Def Leppard, Wiz Khalifa, Lindsey Stirling, more

The best in live music this week around Tampa Bay.
Updated: 11 hours ago
5 things to do under $5: Duck Race, pet adoption drive, Reel Western Movie Series

5 things to do under $5: Duck Race, pet adoption drive, Reel Western Movie Series

Top things to do this week for free or cheap.
Updated: 11 hours ago
Art events: Sound controls light at the Ringling, while antiquity gets a monumental update at TMA

Art events: Sound controls light at the Ringling, while antiquity gets a monumental update at TMA

New exhibits to check out this weekend.
Updated: 11 hours ago
What’s on stage: Countdown Improv Festival, comics Michael Coylar and Alonzo Bodden

What’s on stage: Countdown Improv Festival, comics Michael Coylar and Alonzo Bodden

The best things on stage in Tampa Bay this week.
Updated: 11 hours ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay this weekend

Top things to do in Tampa Bay this weekend

Our editors' picks for the best things to do from Aug. 17 to 29.
Updated: 11 hours ago
Remembering the Queen of Soul: Photos from the life of Aretha Franklin

Remembering the Queen of Soul: Photos from the life of Aretha Franklin

World-renowned soul singer and songwriter Aretha Franklin died Thursday at her home in Detroit. She was 76.Times pop music critic Jay Cridlin called Franklin the greatest singer in the world, praising both her skills onstage and her work as a Civil R...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Cridlin: Aretha Franklin, world’s greatest singer, transcended cultural barriers

Cridlin: Aretha Franklin, world’s greatest singer, transcended cultural barriers

Aretha Franklin wore her crowns like no other.At the Grammy Awards in 1972, where she won the fifth of her 18 trophies: A regal scarlet shawl embroidered with gold, swirled around her sturdy Afro. At the first Divas Live concert in 1998: A golden wra...
Published: 08/16/18