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More than once, I’ve been asked if I thought Natalie Portman properly channeled the iconic Jacqueline Kennedy, in Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie”. My answer was always the same: I don’t know…plus, I wouldn’t want her to. For one thing, I’m certainly not a Jackie scholar. I have no real idea of how she acted, or what she truly sounded like in person. Sure, I’ve seen some archival footage. But my impressions are fleeting, because most of the attention is paid to the men around her. And that’s the beauty of “Jackie”. It’s about her. Finally, she gets full attention.

Besides, why desire strict impersonation? It’s mimicry. And that kind of acting is not very interesting to me. What I can tell you is that Ms. Portman is absolutely astonishing in the title role, and it doesn’t matter if she’s exactly like the late Ms. Kennedy, or barely similar. She simply gives one of the finest performances of 2016. And the film itself is among the best of the year as well. Pablo Larrain directs this with the same probing insight that made his political chronicle “No” (2012 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee) so fascinating. I await his “Neruda”, which I understand is equally fine.

“Jackie” is a haunting, melancholy approach in covering the infamous 4 days in November of 1963, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The film is barely over 90 minutes, and it’s done with an intense focus that remains almost completely on Jackie’s point-of-view. How it affected and damaged her…how it was presented to her children. It’s heart-breaking and sobering, and Ms. Portman never makes a misstep. Her face alone is an absolute marvel. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of her. Peter Sarsgaard does lend strong support as Robert Kennedy. And Greta Gerwig (in the midst of having a standout, and prolific, year), is quite fine as social secretary Nancy Tuckerman. But you NEED to see this for the incredible Natalie Portman. She gives you Portman’s Jackie. And it’s great.

Grade:  A


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