Released By: 20th Century Fox
March 7, 2017.
Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Billy Crudup, Peter Sarsgaard
With over fifty years passed since that day in November of 1963, I'd wager a bet that most people in the free world still remember President John F. Kennedy, whether it be for the hope that his youth and charisma inspired, or his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the botched Bay of Pigs invasion. But what of Kennedy's wife, former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis? In the aftermath of Kennedy's assassination, Jackie found herself pushed to the side as the public focused on conspiracy theories, Lyndon B. Johnson, and the Vietnam war.
At the onset of Pablo Larrain's film Jackie, there are a few hints as to what we can expect. More or less told within the confines of an interview with "a journalist" (Billy Crudup) in her home after the assassination, phrases such as "moment by moment account" and "a story that sounds believable enough to be true" as opposed to a factual telling. Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) struggles visibly with her grief, alternating between outright sorrow and defiantly attempting to maintain control of what will be conveyed to the public. Starting by addressing the first-of-its-kind TV special in which Jackie leads a guided tour through the White House and shows off her renovations and redecorating; in a pretty faithful recreation of the original special, right down to using vintage camera equipment; we then move to the aftermath of the shooting in Dallas.
This is where we see the range of Portman's acting abilities; her reaction as the convertible speeds away from Dealey Plaza; as she tearfully removes her bloody clothing and then frantically scrubs her fingernails back at the hotel; her conversation with her children on why their father won't be coming home; and her response to being directed to exit from the rear of the plane when they land, while Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife greet the press. In later days, Jackie will struggle to find her identity as she is gently pushed out of the White House and the public eye by the new administration, and confront the reality that she may die as penniless as Abraham Lincoln's wife. In an effort to reclaim her legacy and that of her husband, she and her brother-in-law Bobby (Peter Sarsgaard) persist adamantly in ensuring the the late President receives a worthy burial that the public will remember, not to be overshadowed by business-as-usual at the White House.
If you want to talk about films that get their time period correct and look great doing it, Jackie is a suitable place to start. Everything about this film; Production Design, Set Decoration, Wardrobe, Cinematography...it all comes together and looks fantastic. This aspect of the film is what stands out as its prime selling point, as this appealing aesthetic dances across every frame of film to great success. The second most attractive feature here would have to be the strength of the performances; and though all are wonderfully done, the standout is Natalie Portman, who convincingly portrays Jackie as one would expect her to be in the aftermath of such a tragedy. From a somewhat upper-crust way of carrying herself in more prominent moments to absolute devastation, Portman delivers in spades.
So, then, what is it about Jackie that left me cold? For one, this is not a very interesting story. It's an intriguing idea, to present what the former First Lady might have been going through, but there's no real meat here, nothing to keep the viewer compelled to keep watching. Although Portman's range is effective and convincing, what she lacks in this is compassion. True, we see many scenes of Mrs. Kennedy overwhelmed by grief, but the interview segments with Crudup and her dealings with others in the film show her as cold and controlling, which decimates any warmth that the viewer may have toward her character. This is especially evident in the awkward scenes with the late John Hurt, who displays a wonderful humanity during his short time on screen, where Portman's Jackie exudes a silly callousness that makes her downright unlikable. When adding the bitchiness in her pedantic dialogue with Crudup's Journalist, it robs any sympathy we gained for that same character who tearfully tells her children that their daddy is in heaven. Screenplay and Direction are at fault here as well, as scenes without emotion linger for far too long, and a lack of chronology confuses who this person is actually supposed to be. It looks pretty and has some stellar performances, but Jackie ultimately ends up being cold and lifeless; not the kind of film one wants to be immersed in for an hour and forty minutes.
Jackie comes to Fox blu-ray (with additional DVD and HD Download) in a beautiful looking transfer that sports a curious 1.66:1 AVC-encoded aspect ratio. Colours are stunning here, conveying the look of the era wonderfully and realistically, with deep blacks and crisply defined detail. Obviously, the scenes shot on vintage equipment are not going to be of the caliber one would expect in this day and age, but it's a problem-free transfer that looks great.
Audio is handled courtesy of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, with optional English Descriptive Audio Track and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. Largely dialogue driven, the spoken word is clear and consistent throughout, with no distortion or pops. The primary reason for the surrounds in this case seems to be the score, which immerses the listener in its stringy-ness throughout the film, which will occasionally require volume adjustment for those who find it to be abrasive or intrusive.
English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish, and French Subtitles are also included.
The main supplement on the disc is From Jackie To Camelot (22:25), which is a making-of of sorts; though there are some interesting tidbits regarding set design and interviews with major cast members including Portman and Crudup, as well as Director Pablo Larrain and Producer Darren Aranofsky, there's not anything deep being imparted here, with multiple clips from the film taking up the running time.
A Stills Gallery with approximately 30 images is available with manual and auto advance options, and a Trailer and Promo Reel round out the rest of the supplements.
The Final Word:
No doubt, Jackie is a beautiful looking film with outstanding performances, but lacks the warm emotion required to make the film personification of this legendary woman more compelling.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!
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- DVD And Blu-ray Reviews G-M