Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Jackie: Film Reviews from the Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

It took me long enough, didn't it? Finally—finally—I'm here with the first review. Of the first film in our festival roster. (I could've started with my favorite and worked my way through to my least favorite, I guess, but—given the obvious time limitations in my blogging—it just seemed faster to go down the list in order. Plus, this way, you as the reader won't know in advance whether the review is a positive or negative one. Fine, there are no real negative reviews—except one—but there are a few four-stars-with-caveats.)

The film festival opened on Wednesday April 5 officially, but one week earlier, on March 29, they had a pre-screening of what the festival organizers expected to be one of the films in highest demand: Pablo Larraín's Jackie.

I had already seen it (downloaded; these films will never make it into theaters here), but Cor hadn't—and, quite honestly, even if he had, I would've jumped at the chance to not just see it again, but to do it on the big screen. Natalie Portman is beyond outstanding in this film. I always liked her as an actress, and I thought, after Black Swan, that I had a grasp on her capabilities. But Black Swan is seven years old already, and Natalie has apparently not wasted a minute of those years.

Jacqueline Kennedy is a figure of legend. Camelot, sure, but also—perhaps most of all, at least to those of us born after all of it had already happened, those of us who learned about it not from the TV or the newspapers but from history books and documentaries (and, of course, from Oliver Stone's majestic 1991 JFK)—the tragedy she was at the center of. My mother admired her, but resented her liaison to Onassis. And I don't think she was alone. Throughout the years I've heard Jackie praised and reviled, sometimes in the same breath. Onassis's chef quit because she insisted on adding ketchup to every single dish he served her. She enjoyed the limelight too much. She neglected her children. No, she was overly protective of them. She was a bitch. She was a fashion icon. She wasn't all that smart. She was guileless and naïve. No, she wasn't; it was all an act. Bottom line, the image that I garnered of Jackie—through books, through my parents' perspective, through documentaries and movies and pop culture in general—was one that seemed rather ghostly, a picture in a badly focused projector, all shimmery edges and blurry definition. In the midst of so much contradiction, she seemed more like a character of fiction rather than a woman of flesh and blood, an actual human being. It seemed impossible to know her, to grasp her in any approach to reality.

And then came Natalie Portman. And Larraín, and his screenwriters. And Jackie jumped into perfect focus. A woman who defined her time, for better or for worse. A fallible human being, who mourned the tragedy that shaped not just her life but her country forevermore the best—the only—way she knew how.

This performance is a thing of beauty, because in revealing—even embracing—fallibility, it achieves a show of strength that approaches heroic proportions. It is about Jackie, certainly, but it is also about Woman. And Womanhood. Not feminism, not per se, but an in-depth character study of what being a woman is—not should be, but, just, is.

If you haven't seen this, and if you enjoy character-based narratives, this one is a must. If nothing else, watch it for the extraordinary cinematographic achievement. The lighting is spectacular, and the way real scenes are merged (and recreated!) into the modern film is outstanding. Natalie's embodiment of Jackie stretches to the way she speaks; if you watch the White House tour Jackie gave in 1962 (Valentine's Day) and compare it to how Natalie executes that scene—I did it, couldn't resist—you'll see it's identical. Her speech patterns, her facial expressions, her posture, all her mannerisms... To a T. And the true achievement is that she manages to make it look as natural and genuine as if she'd been speaking—and walking, and moving—like that all her life.

Kudos, Natalie.


  1. I haven't managed to see it, yet, but I want to.

    1. I think you'll like it, Andrew. The entire production is fantastic.

  2. I would love to see this. She was one lady in the White House that I admired.

    1. I'll be looking forward to hearing what you think when you do get to see it, Lee. It's a real achievement, in my opinion.

      Thanks for the visit!

  3. Hi Guilie - I've seen the film and thought it was really brilliant - Natalie was excellent in her interpretation of Jackie - in fact I can hear her now. Larrain made the film very plausible with the interlinking of the film together with back footage ... at some stage I definitely want to see it again - a film I'd recommend. How did she cope with the death, the hullaballoo, the Service and all the challenges surrounding her position in life at that stage - it is certainly a thought provoking film.

    I saw an hour of a two hour tv show a couple of days ago on Diana and those events ... a similar set up - though the Royals were dealing with an ex royal - one who'd been 'kicked out' ... yet who had her place in society, and in death in history.

    Cheers - thanks for sharing with us ... Hilary

    1. So glad to hear you're also a fan, Hilary! Yes, Natalie Portman really did a fantastic job, and I love how her performance does a great job of highlighting the humanity behind the image of 'Woman' (whatever that image may be for different people).

      Diana's story is also a fascinating, highly controversial one... Perhaps one day a 'Natalie Portman' will finally give Di the voice she needs.

      Thanks so much for the visit!


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