Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Review: Jackie

Cert: 15 / 100 mins / Dir. Pablo Larrain / Trailer

We're at that point again where I'm longing for something light to watch in the cinema. Not necessarily dumb, just something to lift my spirits rather than make me stroke my chin or massage my temples. In a clear move of marketing tar-brushing, the trailers before today's movie about a newly-widowed woman from the 1960s were for Loving, Patriots Day, Hidden Figures, The Founder and Denial. All fact, no fiction. Y'know, as if the news isn't awful enough these days, and I'd want to escape that by going to the cinema to see that life's always been shit for some poor bastard*1. Well thanks, Ian Hollywood. Thanks a bunch.

But still despite its setting, Pablo Larrain's Jackie manages to - somehow - be at the less-harrowing end of the scale. Using an interview with Life magazine's Theodore White as an intercut framing device, it's the story of Jackie Kennedy's reactions and coping mechanisms in the aftermath of the assassination of her husband. And I say story advisedly; I love that in film's opening scene, we're unequivocally told that what follows won't be a documentary to be scrutinised by the audience, but the considered and edited opinion of its protagonist and 'author'. From the initial setup, a week after JFK's assassination, but even back into the re-created archival footage of Jackie Kennedy, Natalie Portman completely embodies this huge sadness in her portrayal. Not so much a sense of loss, but of being lost; and of the vacuum that exists before someone allows themselves to grieve.

The hype is justified, with an incredibly strong showing from Portman, often overshadowing the rest of the film. Because the story is presented as a curated and often jumbled series of moments, the narrative isn't continuous, so we often cut straight into a scene where Natalie's going full-belt down the dramatic highway. The rest of the cast support ably but it's really not their film, so their performances are almost played down by the combined work of editor Sebastián Sepúlveda and cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine. I could envision a stage-adaptation of this being performed well by a lone actress.

And it's perhaps this disconnect between the eponymous lead and everything else which leaves me liking Larrain's movie rather than loving it*2. Having not lived through those days personally, I found that I wasn't particularly moved by anything I saw, just deeply fascinated.

All in all, definitely worth a watch, but I'm not sure if I'd get anything out of another pass…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Parkland for obvious reasons, but The Iron Lady for tonal ones.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Not unless you're in a hurry to see the film. You'll lose little by catching it at home.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I think so.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Maybe not best, but certainly worthy of note.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I shouldn't think so.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Padmé's in this. And so's Ric Olié!

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 It's debatable how emotionally harrowing The Founder is going to be of course, since it's basically the story of how McDonald's got franchised out. Although if you've ever worked in McDonald's, I imagine the point still stands.

*2 Most disconcerting moment: "PRESIDENT JOHNSON!" bellowed one in-audience commentary provider at the moment when JFK's VP was sworn into office. Thankfully, the same panto-regular waited until the film's closing credits until booming "SHE MARRIED… THE GREEK!" to everyone and no-one. This was, coincidentally I'm sure, the very same cinema where a screening of Eli Roth's Knock Knock apparently had its own audience-participation section. Although the accent of this heckler tells me it was a different punter, at least.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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