If there is a scene in Jackie that will secure Natalie Portman yet another Best Actress Oscar nomination, it's when she (as Jacqueline Kennedy) walks slowly through an almost-empty White House, her rose-pink Chanel suit stained with the blood of her assassinated husband, President John F. Kennedy. Portman all but floats through the scene, almost ghost-like, and it's a thrilling cinematic moment.
She has played Anne Frank on Broadway and Princess Amidala in Star Wars; she's portrayed a stripper, an assassin and a "black swan." But Portman's portrayal of former First Lady Jackie Kennedy is near-perfection.
Chilean director Pablo Larrain has crafted a brave movie. Considering how much we know of JFK and his assassination, Larrain has chosen to shift the perspective on the tragic event to one of the most enigmatic women of the 20th century. It's an exploration of everything we never knew about what was going on behind closed doors in the frenzied period following the president's murder in November 1963.
"You should take your children and disappear," a White House adviser tells Jackie the day after the assassination. "You should build a fortress and never look back."
Of course, that's what Jackie eventually did, choosing an elusive second chapter of her life as the wife of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. But her decisions regarding how and where her husband should be honored is fascinating material.
Larrain frames his story with an interview Jackie gave mere days after her husband's death. The interviewer, known only as "the journalist" in the movie (and expertly played by Billy Crudup) was, in reality, Theodore White. Throughout the interview, Jackie is selective of how she wants White's story to "look" and "feel." According to the film, she had her way. The story, which was printed in Life Magazine, became the foundation of the "Camelot" mythology so often used to describe the Kennedy legacy.
White's original interview tapes and transcripts were barred from public release until a year after Jackie's death (she died in 1994), and screenwriter Noah Oppeneheim drew on the materials for this gripping film.
It's a beautiful movie, filled with great supporting performances—particularly from Peter Sarsgaard as Robert Kennedy—but, ultimately, this is Portman's moment. She's in every frame of Jackie and her portrayal of one of the most iconic and unknowable women of our time is certain to punch her ticket back to the Oscars.