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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Pablo Larraín|
|Written by||Noah Oppenheim|
|Music by||Mica Levi|
|Edited by||Sebastián Sepúlveda|
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
|Box office||$25.1 million|
Jackie is a 2016 biographical drama film directed by Pablo Larraín and written by Noah Oppenheim. The film stars Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy and tells the story of her life after the 1963 assassination of her husband John F. Kennedy. Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, and John Hurt also star; it was Hurt's final film released before his death in January 2017.
The film follows Jackie Kennedy in the days when she was First Lady in the White House and her life immediately following the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy, in 1963. It is partly based on Theodore H. White's Life magazine interview with the widow at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.
The film was selected to compete for the Golden Lion at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival, and was released in the United States on December 2, 2016, by Fox Searchlight Pictures to positive reviews and was nominated for three Oscars at the 89th Academy Awards: Best Actress (Portman), Best Original Score and Best Costume Design.
The film begins with Jackie Kennedy receiving a journalist for an interview at her home. After some small talk and introductory questions, the journalist turns to his inquiries about the assassination and its aftermath for Jackie and her family. In a series of flashbacks, Jackie is shown in her emotional reaction to the events of the assassination and her interaction with members of the White House close to the President. Lyndon Johnson and his wife Lady Bird are shown comforting Jackie in the aftermath. Robert Kennedy soon appears to help her, in planning the funeral and looking after the family. Jackie is especially concerned for the well-being of the children in adjusting to the loss of their father. As the film returns several times to the journalist interviewing Jackie, she makes clear that she maintains the right to control which parts of the interview may come to press and which parts are to be withheld.
The film's script, written by Noah Oppenheim, was originally conceived as an HBO miniseries, covering the "four days between John F. Kennedy's assassination and his burial, showing Jackie at both her most vulnerable and her most graceful". Steven Spielberg was originally set to produce the series, and later left the project.
Pablo Larraín, not typically inclined to directing biopics, was initially hesitant to direct Jackie when he was offered the opportunity. He stated that although he did not have any history or knowledge about John F. Kennedy's assassination, he connected with Jacqueline Kennedy. Prior to directing Jackie, he had only made films centering on male protagonists rather than women. Thus, Jackie is the first film that he could approach from a woman's perspective. He grew more interested in Kennedy after learning more about her. To him, her life after the assassination "had all the elements that you need for a movie: rage, curiosity, and love." Oppenheim said that the screenplay itself did not change much over the long development process, revealing, "When Pablo Larraín boarded the project, he had ideas. I wrote two or three more drafts with his guidance, but over a very condensed period of time. So while it took six years from first draft to completion, most of those six years were not active years."
In April 2010, it was announced that Rachel Weisz would star in the titular role, with Darren Aronofsky set to direct and produce the film, from Oppenheim's script. However, both Weisz and Aronofsky dropped out after they ended their romantic relationship. The same year, Steven Spielberg showed interest in helming the film. Then in September 2012, without a director, Fox Searchlight Pictures started courting Natalie Portman to star in the film as Jacqueline "Jackie" Kennedy, hoping that her participation would bring back Aronofsky, although Portman's involvement was contingent on which director signed on. At the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2015, Pablo Larraín was approached by Aronofsky to direct the film, after he was impressed by the former's The Club. Larraín was skeptical, and asked Aronofsky why he wanted a Chilean man who was not fond of biopics to helm the film. In May 2015, Portman was confirmed to star in the film. That same month, Larraín was hired to direct the film, with Aronofsky working as a producer. By the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, the film was officially a go. The rest of the cast – led by Greta Gerwig and Peter Sarsgaard – were announced between May and October of the same year.
Natalie Portman was approached to star in the film in September 2012, but her casting was not confirmed until May 2015. In preparation for the role, Portman studied Jackie Kennedy extensively by watching videos of her, repeatedly watching White House tour recordings, reading books, and listening to audiotapes of her interviews. She also read around twenty of her "pulpy" biographies, which she did not consider high literature. Her primary source was the seven-part eight-and-a-half-hour Life magazine interview conducted in the early part of 1964, by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. with Kennedy. One of three interviews she gave following her husband’s assassination, it was kept private throughout her life.
Portman said she was intimidated at first, and her initial knowledge of Kennedy was just a "superficial understanding of [Kennedy] as a fashion plate." But through playing her in the film, Portman gained a deeper understanding of the former first lady. While doing research, she found out that Kennedy had two personas in front of different people – a debutante in public but feisty behind closed doors. "When she was doing interviews, [her voice] was a lot more girly and soft, and then when you hear her talking to Schlesinger at home, you hear the ice in the glass clinking and the voice is a little deeper and her wit comes out more, so you get this real sense of the two sides."
Mimicking Jackie's ranging vocals was pivotal for Portman, since Aronofsky said "conquering Kennedy's vocals was the key to the rest of the film." Portman trained with dialect coach Tanya Blumstein, and in the beginning, had difficulty with copying Kennedy's vocals, especially on the first day of set when her initial delivery was too much. She has also said that the costumes helped her to get into character.
Portman is one of many actors to have portrayed Kennedy in cinema and on television, following Divine, Jaclyn Smith, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Roma Downey, Jill Hennessy, Joanne Whalley, Kat Steffens, Jacqueline Bisset, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Parker Posey, Blair Brown, Katie Holmes, Victoria Beckham, Ginnifer Goodwin, Stephanie Romanov and Minka Kelly.
Principal photography on the film began in December 2015 in a Paris-area studio, where most of the interior scenes were shot. Production designer Rabasse and set decorator Melery oversaw replication of the White House rooms needed for filming in the studio just outside Paris. In February 2016, production moved to downtown Washington, D.C., where JFK's funeral procession scenes were filmed.
The film had its world premiere at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival on September 7, 2016. It also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2016. Shortly after, Fox Searchlight Pictures acquired U.S distribution rights to the film, and set it for a December 9, 2016, release. It was later moved up a week to December 2.
Jackie grossed $14 million in the United States and Canada and $11.1 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $25.1 million.
Fox Searchlight opened Jackie in a limited release in five theaters across the United States on December 2, 2016. In Los Angeles, it screened at the Arclight Hollywood and the Landmark West L.A., while in New York City, it played at AMC Lincoln Square, Cinema 1,2,3, and the Landmark Sunshine. It grossed $275,000 during its opening weekend (a per-theater average of $55,000), finishing 20th at the box office.
Jackie received positive reviews from critics, with Portman's performance being widely acclaimed. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 88% based on 309 reviews, with an average rating of 7.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Jackie offers an alluring peek into a beloved American public figure's private world — and an enthralling starring performance from Natalie Portman in the bargain." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 81 out of 100, based on 52 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".
David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a highly positive review, writing that the film is "Extraordinary in its piercing intimacy and lacerating in its sorrow." Guy Lodge of Variety also gave the film a highly positive review, writing that "Chilean helmer Pablo Larraín makes an extraordinary English-lingo debut with this daring, many-leveled portrait of history's favorite First Lady."
The Dallas Morning News commentator Anna Parks criticized the film's negative portrayal of Jackie's relationship with Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. She noted that letters, as well as a taped phone conversation between President Johnson and Jackie, which occurred on December 2, 1963, showed that the former first lady and the Johnsons were cooperating well.
Noah Oppenheim did not credit Theodore White in the film because he considers the journalist's role, played by Billy Crudup, to be a composite of White, William Manchester and Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.