Natalie Portman is a great actress, but even in her best roles she is often highly mannered, very tightly controlled. Which in many ways makes first lady Jacqueline Kennedy the part she was born to play. Thankfully, the film Pablo Larrain has built around her is a true marvel, rising to heights most biopics can only dream of.
I don't think I've seen a biopic that is so on the wavelength of its subject AND so in tune with the time in which it was made. This is a film that could only have been made right now, and indeed, it is in many ways a film that NEEDED to be made right now, ruminating as it does on just what (or, indeed, who) makes a President's legacy when so many just want to push right on past him into the future, and also commenting on what the press demand of our public figures and why, and where exactly public figures will draw the line in their use of the media.
It is a fascinating film on many levels, all swirling around Portman's downright astonishing central performance. She gets the overly manicured voice and stiff mannerisms of Jackie down pat, going through every mix of emotions under the sun as she feels, suppresses, and works through her grief. But Chilean director Pablo Larrain doesn't let her do ALL the heavy lifting. He knows how to frame her to emphasize the loneliness even among many people, the fragility among such strength, the woman under the public face. Noah Oppenheim's smartly written screenplay provides the foundation, and Larrain constructs a mausoleum of American politics around it, with the White House as ground zero. And then he brings in Mica Levi for the score, providing the perfect notes for the despair, determination, and rage of a woman in mourning.
It's all too much to talk about. It must be seen, must be experienced on a big screen to fully comprehend how brilliant it is. This is one of the finest films of 2016, no doubt about it, and it deserves to be remembered for much more than its great leading lady.