The only thing that seriously irritates me about Jackie (Fox Searchlight, 12.2) is the fact that every time the actor playing John F. Kennedy (i.e., Caspar Phillipson) appears, he looks like a nobody coping with a hopeless task. Which is all the more striking given that Natalie Portman impressively pulls off her Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

Even today, 53 years after his murder, JFK’s looks and manner are simply too distinct and well-known to be convincingly replicated. On the other hand they don’t need to be. Because we’ve reached a stage in filmmaking which famous folk don’t have to be impersonated by anyone, or so I gather. It’s been 22 years, after all, since the crude CG pastings of Forrest Gump.

If I’d been a major Jackie financier I would have leaned on director Pablo Larrain and producer Darren Aronofsky to go to the archives, spend a shitload of money and use a digitally reconstituted version of the actual guy. JFK appears in…what, six or seven scenes at most, and briefly at that? It would have been expensive and arduous (i.e., Portman and others performing scenes with an actor covered in a green body stocking) but if at the end of the day Jackie had featured the Real McCoy…wow.

Pablo Larrain‘s Jackie is a major stand-out in a long line of docudramas about the tragedy and travails of the Kennedy family. It’s the only one that can be truly called an art film — intimate, half-dreamlike, cerebral, not entirely ‘realistic’ but at the same time a persuasive and fascinating portrait of what Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Natalie Portman) went through between the lunch-hour murder of her husband in Dallas on 11.22.63 and his burial at Arlington National Cemetery on 11.25.63.

“Shot in 16mm and projected at HE’s favorite aspect ratio of 1.66:1, Jackie feels somewhat removed from the way that gut-slamming national tragedy looked and felt a half-century ago, and yet it’s a closely observed, sharply focused thing. Very much its own bird. Not a song re-sung but refreshed — a ‘cover’ if you will.

“If you’re looking for a familiar emotional bath in the lore of JFK and Jackie’s bright, sad tale, you’d best look elsewhere.

“Like any work of art Jackie is primarily about the vision and the brushstrokes and secondarily the subject. It’s about how Pablo, Natalie, Jackie, Bobby and Jack have somehow spliced their DNA and made something new and now, and at the same time delivered a spooky time trip.

Jackie is therefore more about Portman playing Jackie than the former First lady herself, although Portman has not only recreated the voice and mannerisms and deep-seated sadness but has sunk right into the minutiae of that life and those times. On top of which Noah Oppenheim‘s script (a draft of which I first read six years ago) seems to uncover certain ground-table truths about who Jackie was and how she handled herself during these difficult hours.

“90% of the events of the film are flashbacks, conveyed as Mrs. Kennedy is interviewed in late ’63 by historian Theodore H. White. If you ask me Billy Crudup‘s portrayal of White is the film’s second best performance. He hits exactly the right notes, speaking to the former First Lady concisely, frankly, tactfully. (Remember how great he was in Spotlight at Boston attorney Eric Macleish?)” — from “Jackie Is Not Your Mother’s Kennedy Drama,” posted on 9.12.16.