Married for 10 years and First Lady for a shade under three years, Jacqueline Kennedy has been arguably the most popular and charismatic First Lady of the US, even after her remarriage five years after her husband John F. Kennedy’s assimilation.

Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s Jackie is an account of her interview to Life correspondent Theodore White (played by Billy Crudup) a week after her bereavement on 22 November 1963. Natalie Portman, appearing in almost every frame of the film and with the distinguishing accent and voice, plays Jacqueline to near perfection.

The film, with some political and social overtones, is a buoyant account of JFK’s assassination and its immediate aftermath. With flashbacks within flashbacks, especially the tour of the White House, the film goes to great lengths to depict the rapport and the relationship between the First Lady and her brother-in-law, the redoubtable Robert Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard).

As the Democrat President, Caspar Phillipson has not much of screen space.  But there are some defining moments, such as when Bobby (RFK), calling the shots, orders President Lyndon Johnson (played by John Caroll Lynch) to sit down; or when, in a  moment of fury Jackie tells Bobby that the two brothers have always treated others like puppets.

‘A First Lady must always be ready to pack her suitcases’ she says at one stage in the film, and ‘John and I hardly spent nights in bed’, she admits at another.   Apart from Portman’s high cheekbones, there isn’t much physical similarity to Jacqueline. Neither do the Kennedy brothers resemble Phillipson and Sarsgaard.

But there are some memorable performances by Portman, Sarsgaard, Crudup, John Hurts as the Priest, and Greta Gerwig as Nancy Tuckerman, Jackie’s attendant and confidante.

Jackie comes across as now vulnerable, now dauntless (who demands the interview to be edited and approved by her) ex-First Lady whose grief is palpable, whether at losing her husband or the White House.

Mica Levi’s non-intrusive, funereal background score, Noah Opperheim’s script, director Larrain’s direction (his first in the US) and French costume designer Madelaine Fontaine’s efforts have seamlessly blended to make Jackie one of the outstanding films of this year.   The director’s intensive research, evidently the result of incisive sifting through newspaper records and documents, makes the film a worthy watch, especially with 3 Oscar nominations- Best Actress, Best Music Score and Best Costume Design.

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