Though it revolves around real-life figures rooted in American history, Jackie — Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s stunning take on the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis — serves as a fitting reflection of today’s political landscape, according to its maker.
Speaking to EW’s Nicole Sperling at PopFest in Los Angeles, Larraín cleared the air about the identity of his new film, which many have improperly described as a biopic after it shot into the awards season conversation following warm reception out of various fall festivals in Venice, Toronto, and New York City.
“I wouldn’t consider Jackie a biopic. It’s like a study on somebody’s sensibilities, feelings, and emotions during a specific period of time,” he said of the film, which stars Natalie Portman as the titular widow. “I was invited [to direct] by Darren Aronofsky… he saw some of my work and thought it was interesting to have someone who’s not an American [take the reins], and to maybe bring someone who could have a different point of view on the story… I always wondered how could you make [this] story very universal, because there were a lot of things you would assume [to know, but] it’s a very well-known story so I didn’t assume anything. I wanted to understand and to feel and to [convey] the proper emotions of the character, to be able to understand her by myself.”
It was through that creative process of getting to know Kennedy’s grief as she navigated a barrage of personal and professional scrutiny in the days following her husband’s 1963 assassination that guided Larraín’s perspective on the film’s relevance to contemporary politics, with particular regards to women in government.
“The point is to see everything from [Jackie’s] eyes and to understand how she was able to pull a country together to grab the entire country’s grief and pain and put it over her shoulders, walk, push, and expose herself [to] make it possible… it’s about a woman who became the country’s mother,” he said.
He continued: “I’ve seen what Michelle Obama has been doing, what Hillary Clinton has been doing… no matter what your political beliefs are, there’s no doubt that the role of a woman in this country’s politics today is being taken very seriously, and that’s important and something that should have happened a long way ago.”
Jackie enters limited theatrical release on Dec. 2. For more EW PopFest interviews, listen to EW Radio on SiriusXM (ch. 105) all week long. Watch Sperling’s full interview with Larraín in the video above.