Natalie Portman has had a small succession of parts that have allowed her expand beyond stereotypical female roles, but her Jackie Kennedy, which never gives into the Lady Macbeth insanity that it could have, is the pinnacle of her performances. Jackie's oscillations from stoicism, to hysterics, to dutiful wife, to thoughtful art lover, and then to grieving widow and back again, are seamless and heartbreaking. And Noah Oppenheim's script is rife with the kind of dialogue an actress would sell her soul for: witty, provocative, layered and meaningful beyond the scope of this story.
The film is a searing, almost scary thrill ride through the psyche of one very determined woman. Director Pablo Larraín utilizes a jump-cut technique to create a dreamlike structure that interweaves impressions and memories. He either skips the mundane or imbues it with gravity, like a scene depicting the night before Jackie is to vacate the White House; Jackie plays house, gliding around her elegant living quarters in a daze, pouring martinis, chain-smoking cigarettes, slipping into her couture gowns, carrying a silver tray of drinks to a regal dining table. She sits alone, listening to a record player blasting the jovial theme from Camelot, while Secret Service agents look on from afar. The camera stays close to her; there is no doubt this is Jackie's story alone -- not her husband's.
Mica Levi's score adds an overwhelming sense of dread, and it's almost easy to overlook the craftswork on Jackie's immaculately replicated Chanel numbers. Not one element of the costuming and production design stands apart, but all together recreate the time, place and people.