The assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 was one of those moments that defined a generation. That this handsome, charismatic leader with a beautiful wife and two young children could have his life ended so brutally defied comprehension.
With JACKIE, Pablo Larraín makes a brave choice by retelling this story solely through the eyes of Jacqueline Kennedy, casting Natalie Portman in a lead performance that is deeply intelligent and carefully measured. Jackie was as romantic a public figure as her husband, an outwardly poised partner who was placed under great scrutiny yet played her role with consummate grace. Structuring his film around Theodore H. White's LIFE magazine interview with the First Lady at Hyannis Port a mere week after the assassination, Larraín plunges us into the devastation using a series of finely crafted flashbacks that cover the fateful day in Dallas, Jackie's return to the White House, arrangements for the President's funeral, and her time spent accompanying her husband's coffin to Arlington Cemetery.
These sequences complete a moving portrait of a grieving woman — a widow and mother struggling with overwhelming tragedy and attention. Yet the core of the film is formed by quiet, profoundly intimate moments: Jackie's conversations with her children, her brother-in-law Robert Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard), one of her aides (Greta Gerwig), journalist White (Billy Crudup), and a Catholic priest (John Hurt).
With the utmost care and restraint, Larraín depicts one half of the couple who inhabited America's short-lived but still mythic time of "Camelot" — the woman who, in fact, coined that very expression. The director has moved beyond his native Chile to deliver a magnificent recreation of a defining moment in US politics and lore, and the woman we all knew as Jackie.