After spending the better part of the last decade prepping for the release of her feature directorial debut, Natalie Portman is once again making waves in front of the camera in a major way, playing one of the most iconic women of the modern era, Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis, in the new Pablo Larraín drama Jackie.
Jackie had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday, and the critics have weighed in on the English-language debut from the Chilean auteur, who previously directed films like No, The Club, and Neruda. Judging by the few reviews that have surfaced out of Venice, there’s nothing lost in translation as Larraín makes the jump, with Portman reportedly giving a career-high performance under the filmmaker’s careful direction.
Though the film, which stars Portman as the titular widow in the days following the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy, has yet to secure a distributor, its glowing reviews out of Venice undoubtedly work in its favor. Pending a positive performance with audiences and critics at the Toronto International Film Festival next week, the film could find a home (and a spot among the awards season race) relatively soon.
For now, check out what critics are saying about Jackie in the reviews below.
Guy Lodge (Variety)
“Chilean helmer Pablo Larraín makes an extraordinary English-lingo debut with this daring, many-leveled portrait of history’s favorite First Lady… Jackie’s intelligently disordered assemblage of facts and feelings is likewise difficult to parse. For away from its piquant, sometimes incendiary observations on celebrity, politics and the present-tense construction of history, the film is also a stirring, deeply upsetting account of individual grief at any level of scrutiny. The complicated, colliding feelings of anger, confusion and cold acceptance that come with any personal loss are mapped out here with a sense of fine-tuned chaos, with Levi’s astonishing score somehow playing them all: a lilting, hopeful flute note carried on an alien wash of strings, or a militaristic death march thrumming behind a graceful flutter of piano. While he feels her pain, Larraín is also loath to leave his subject alone: The most intimate scenes of Jackie are often its most gasp-inducing, whether she’s washing blood out of her hair in the shower or telling her children why Daddy’s not coming home. Some viewers will take issue with the boundaries, or lack thereof, in this lucid portrait, but by deftly shuffling through her many reflections and self-reflections, Larraín crucially never lays claim to the ‘real’ Jackie. ‘When something’s written down, does that make it true?’ she asks White, placing the authenticity of his profile further in doubt, before smirking, ‘They have television now.’ In this rich, challenging, endlessly teasing film, on the other hand, the screen provides just as many places to hide.”
David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Extraordinary in its piercing intimacy and lacerating in its sorrow, Jackie is a remarkably raw portrait of an iconic American First Lady… Powered by an astonishing performance from a never-better Natalie Portman in the title role, this unconventional bio-drama also marks a boldly assured English-language debut for Pablo Larrain, the gifted Chilean director behind such films as No, The Club and Neruda… In a high-wire performance that encompasses the careful poise as well as the bone-deep insecurities of its subject, Portman’s voice is her greatest asset. There’s a finishing-school exactitude to her phrasing, coupled with quivering notes like fine bone china that might crack with even the softest impact (at times she sounds uncannily like Jessica Lange). But she also has a cool authority when required, her words and her eyes working together to make it clear she brooks no argument.”
Jessica Kiang (The Playlist)
“Jackie is a biopic that is actually interested in its subject, and not just in what happened to her. This means Portman’s performance in the title role is not just foregrounded, it’s everything. And yet it’s hardly naturalistic — she is, in fact, with her exaggerated breathiness and excessively precise, well-bred diction, extremely mannered. But is it Portman being mannered or Portman playing Jackie being mannered or Portman being mannered playing Jackie being mannered? The genius and the lunacy of Larraín’s eternally idiosyncratic approach here is that he doesn’t run from these mannerisms. He doesn’t cut around to reaction shots or macros or inserts to try and apologize for them. To the contrary, many of his shots of Portman (photographed to glowing luminescence by Stéphane Fontaine) are straight-on close ups, so we can see everything that is real (her expressive eyes, her changeable moods) and everything that is affected (her mouth working those over-enunciated words, the way she smokes as though she’d never lifted a cigarette before). Larraín seems not just unafraid of the moments of kitsch but fascinated by them, amused by them, wanting to investigate and play with them.”
Marlow Stern (The Daily Beast)
“We witness different sides to Jackie in each of these interactions: her public persona, flashing that irresistible smile to the TV news cameras; her semi-public persona, exuding strength, cutting wit, and strategy in painting a fairy tale picture of the Kennedy White House as ‘Camelot’ to Life; and her private grief at the loss of her husband, confessing to the elderly priest that she often wishes she could join him in the great beyond. The result is a finely etched, layered interpretation of Jacqueline Kennedy—and one that will surely draw comparisons to Stephen Frears’s The Queen… Few actresses portray inner torment quite like Portman, whose youthful visage exudes childlike terror, and with it, pathos. It is what made her Oscar-winning turn as a ballerina in Black Swan so transfixing; a frightened and desperate little girl trapped in the body of a grown woman striving for acceptance.”