Monday, February 6, 2017

2016 Award Circuit: Jackie Review

2016 Award Circuit: Jackie Review
The 2016 Award Circuit will be a collection of reviews of films that are in some kind of award runnings within the months of January through March. Not only will this prepare me for the big night (AKA Oscar Night), but it will also allow me to catch up with some of the critically acclaimed films I missed out on in 2016. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy watching and writing them.

I feel the 2010's will be a decade where Natalie Portman redefined the type of performer she is going to be for the future. Sure, she can do something like "Thor" every once in awhile, but we've never really seen her take her career this seriously before. Yes, she did plenty of Oscar-bait and arthouse style things earlier in her career, but I think there has always been a promise of greatness to come in many of her earlier roles. Whether it be "Closer" or "Garden State," even "V For Vendetta." We've known for awhile now that the time was coming when her name would be called to the stage to receive her Oscar for her acting chops.

Thankfully, she won in 2011 for her work in "Black Swan," which is easily one of the most incredible moments of her entire career. I love that movie from start to finish, and every single time I watch it, its the work by Portman that pulls me back. Compelling me to take that dark journey with her. I feel the Academy makes several mistakes every year, but Natalie Portman's win was not among them.

Now she stars as Jackie Kennedy in "Jackie," dealing with the emotional, personal, psychological and political ramifications of the death of her husband. Once again, Natalie Portman takes full command of the screen. But more than that, she disappears into the role. Even though she doesn't de-glam herself, even though she looks like the same old Natalie Portman. She still manages to disappear into the role. She doesn't sound like her normal self. She doesn't walk like she used to walk. It feels like she completely transforms into Jackie Kennedy for this film. Its pretty clear that she did her homework for this role, because its convincing all running time long. She is guided by a stellar supporting cast; including John Carol Lynch as Lyndon B. Johnson and Peter Sarsgaard as Robert Kennedy. There are performances by Greta Gerwig, Billy Cudrup and a nice little one-of-the-last performances by John Hurt. Hurt plays Jackie's family priest and their conversations are some of the strongest material in the whole film. Could Portman win another Oscar? I believe its possible. We'll have to wait and see. She's got good competition this year.

As for the movie itself? Its good, I guess. I can certainly say its a fascinating experience, but at the same time it didn't blow me away. It feels more like a moving museum piece rather than a movie. I think its clever that the movie kind of feels like its moving in slow motion, because this all from Jackie's perspective. So of course, when you lose somebody so close to you as a husband, it can feel like the world is moving slowly. There is an artful twist to many scenes in the film. While I admire the effort, it certainly has pacing issues here and there. The movie also feels like a dream, as if Jackie is trying to swim out of her sleep, desperate to get out of this living nightmare she finds herself in. Again, I admire the effort, but while we know there is a story buried in this movie, at moments it feels like a series of random scenes.

Maybe I'm over-explaining it. This certainly isn't an experimental movie, but sometimes it kind of feels like it does. The film acts like it wants to be dreamy and non-linear but then chickens out at the last minute. This isn't the tone or style I expected from this film, so I guess I am glad that all the performances turned out well. The great performances really elevate the material and keep you watching, and if you need any incentive to see this at all, check it out for Natalie Portman. She delivers once again, I just wish the film as a whole did too.


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