The biopic is a tiresome genre. It is predicated on formula and stuffy grandiose representations. When a film like Jackie comes around, then, it acts as a feat of restorative faith in the biopic.
Jackie is shot with opaque symmetry. There are many angular, straight on shots that mirror the subject’s mournful resolve. It is an elegant symmetry, simple yet poignant.
The film also carries with it a ’60s aesthetic, both in its production design and cinematography. Lighting and a slight grain effect are an immersive means of transportation.
The real immersion, of course, is Natalie Portman as the enigmatic Jacqueline Kennedy. Every closeup and extreme closeup functions as a gateway, and Portman is the guiding light in the foyer. Her utterly enrapturing performance is truly something to behold.
As much as Portman embodies Jackie admirably, the production design creates Jackie’s world wonderfully. From set design to costuming, the mise-en-scene makes the environment feel open and claustrophobic at the same time.
The deliberateness by which director Pablo Larrain presents Jackie’s eccentric situation of mourning and attempts at maintaining a legacy is astonishing. A story told in the juxtaposition between closeup and long shot, the film is an internalizing representation of a single figure’s isolation—the uncomfortable closeup—and that figure’s struggle with the widespread ramifications of her husband’s death—the revealing long shot.
In this way, Jackie is a biopic done right. It takes the big and the small of the situation and blends them without losing sight of the central figure. At the risk of sounding redundant, elegant is the word.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)