Perfectly timed between the most highly publicised and controversial US Presidential election ever and the usual 'true story' Oscar-baiting awards season comes a biopic about America's most glamorous former First Lady, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.
Imaginatively (and succinctly) titled Jackie, Natalie Portman does a voice perfect imitation of JFK's fashionista widow in the weeks following her husband's assassination on the 22nd November 1963. Portman's portrayal goes far beyond mere mimicry, managing to convey the emotional devastation of dealing with such unexpected bereavement whilst losing her house and privileged position simultaneously.
Chilean director Pablo Larraín has benn preoccupied with America, fame and politics throughout his career and this continues with his first English language film. In his breakout film Tony Manero, Raul wanted to be the embodiment of the John Travolta's character from Saturday Night Fever, going to increasingly desperate lengths to win a Manero-impersonator competition. In No, an ad executive tries to defeat General Pinochet in the 1988 election using brash American-style advertising.
Larraín's outsider's view lends itself to the film's best scenes, recreating the filming of Mrs Kennedy's TV tour through the White House. A '60s prototype of MTV's Cribs, Portman encapsulates the awkward, mannered host as she leads a breathtakingly dull tour of her home and is almost indistinguishable from the original programme (available for your delectation on YouTube).
Jackie is filled with surprising details that highlight aspects of a period which could feel overly familiar from the slew of cinematic outings and documentaries that have been produced about JFK over the years. The dialogue is often particularly absorbing, rarely over explaining or patronising its audience as biopics are prone to do. The film is structured around a conversation between Jackie and unnamed journalist Billy Crudup, the scenes between them fizzing with the unspoken and the contradictions between public and private life, writer Noah Oppenheim really proving his creative chops after jobbing on YA dystopian adaptations The Maze Runner and Allegiant.
Underneath Oppenheim’s dialogue and Larraín’s emphasis on the surreal nature of fame, there is a typically sentimental Hollywood biopic which jars dramatically with the strange film on top of it. Peppered with name-dropping and semi-cameos from John Hurt and Richard E Grant, it's still a cut above most aggrandising biographical films and has room for some surreptitious criticism along the way. It’s just a shame you can see the thumbprint of a producer with an Oscar twinkling in his eye pressed all over it.