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The Lobster

Posted : 4 months ago on 17 February 2017 05:37 (A review of The Lobster)

Don’t take this as a sign that I disliked The Lobster, but what the fuck was this movie?

 

Not only is there a ludicrous high concept, but the entire thing is a sick joke about the societal pressures of coupling up and romantic entanglements. The whole thing alternates between deadpan, blacker-than-midnight humor and an uncomfortably twisted sense of danger. I’m not sure if the entire thing works, or if it eventually collapses under the strain of its own artistic reach, but The Lobster had me enraptured with its strangeness and perversity for the entire duration.

 

The Lobster’s wild concept comes roaring out the gate as a woman angrily shoots a goat, who I guess was an ex or something at one point? Anyway, we then meet David (Colin Farrell) as he checks into a hotel, where he will be turned into an animal after 45 days if he doesn’t’ make a love connection. The Lobster gets its title from David’s choice of what animal he would like to become, and I hesitate to reveal more of the plot. It’s original and wild, and trying to summarize it won’t make it any clearer or less hallucinatory.

 

In-between the oddities and stiff acting choices, The Lobster is something of a forbidden love story when it’s all said and done. David eventually meets an unnamed woman (Rachel Weisz), this unnamed woman is also the narrator of the piece. We overhear her thoughts as she writes in her diary, and one presumes that these two will eventually have a happy ending given some of the language used and the open-ended shot of the film. Maybe I’m just a bit of a romantic at heart, once you get past the layers and layers of snark and defensive humor.

 

At times The Lobster can feel like it is eating its own tail, repeatedly. As the story delves into its own hermetically sealed strangeness, so does the film becomes something a closed eco-system. It won’t engender widespread audience participation and sympathy, and The Lobster will prove divisive, but there’s just something provocative and wild about it that I enjoyed.



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Loving

Posted : 4 months ago on 17 February 2017 04:30 (A review of Loving)

Sure, there are moments in Loving where the prestige format threatens to put the more quiet, lo-fi charms in a strangle hold, but they’re easily forgiven. Loving keeps everything at a simmer, preferring to place the focus on these two very private people instead of the cultural pyrotechnics going off all around them. It’s a wonderful little movie about love trumping hate.

 

Telling the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving and their Supreme Court case which struck down all anti-miscegenation laws, Loving does fold too easily into a three act structure at times. There’s the opening section in Virginia where they are arrested in the middle of the night for cohabitation, a forced 25 year banishment where the relocate to Washington, D.C., and, of course, their eventual return to Virginia with three young children to contest the courts unjust and deeply racist rulings on their marriage. You already know the outcomes of each of these story beats, and there’s an occasionally overly glossy image that undercuts the dignities and strengths of the film.

 

Yet these moments are easily ignored, forgiven, or skipped over when Loving is taken as a whole. The two lead performances radiate with deeply excavated humanity and nobility as they go about the day-to-day business of living, marriage, and raising kids. Or the ways that Loving finds humanity in its mundane interactions between these two people. Here are two people who are deeply committed to each other, and slightly nervous about the amount of attention and scrutiny that they are getting by daring to love one another, and go to increasingly higher courts with their lawsuit.

 

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga are positively exquisite here. Edgerton brings a lot of depth and nervous energy to Richard. This is a man of few words who expresses his fidelity and love for his family through his actions not his words, and desperately wants to protect them from the outside world. Negga has the more talkative of the pair, but not by much. She brings a huge amount of resilience to the part, and Negga makes Mildred positively blossom as the story progresses. In a more just cinematic world Edgerton would be joining Negga as an Oscar nominee, but he got edged out by the flashier Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic and Ryan Gosling being carried in on La La Land’s giant wave.

 

Loving is an ever-timely story told well, with strong performances and a pleasingly subtle aura. I don’t need the flashy bells and whistles, and I frankly don’t miss them in the typical prestige picture. I love how quiet this film is, but its quietness is also probably the thing that knocked it out of most major Oscar categories. Maybe one day they’ll learn that quietness is a virtue and we can stop rewarding the more manipulative melodramas. There’s honesty and truth in Loving, and it’s one of the finest films of 2016.



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Lion

Posted : 4 months, 1 week ago on 13 February 2017 05:13 (A review of Lion)

With the exception of the ending, by which time the film has earned it and we demand the catharsis, Lion keeps it sentimentality and emotions at a low simmer. It’s a bit refreshing for a film that finds itself as a power player in the Oscar race. I doubt Lion will win much, but it’s quietness, it’s emotionally naked and honest performances are most welcome breathers between the louder entries in this year’s race.

 

At its best moments, Lion is a film about a man trapped between two worlds, lost between his past and present, and uncomfortable with looking too far into his future. The story is undeniably moving and uplifting in its truth, but something funny happens between the two halves that make up its structure. The first moves along at a breezy, consistently engaging clip, then the second slogs down, takes too long to get where it’s going, but there’s still plenty to enjoy along the way.

 

The first half is a better movie, with a wonderfully plucky performance from Sunny Pawar as young Saroo, as it places us squarely in the eyes of this child. We experience his fears, marvel at his pluck and ingenuity, and rejoice in the brief moments of kindness and connection he encounters with strangers. A moment where he catches Nicole Kidman as his adoptive mother crying touched me very deeply for the delicate way he wipes away her tears. I just wish that Lion had kept up this pace and emotional investment during the second half.

 

The second half’s problem isn’t in the continued performance of Kidman, who is absolutely stunning in her muted role here, especially in a scene where she tells Saroo why she chose to adopt him and want he’s meant to her life. Hell, Kidman’s delivery of a message of support and hope for her adopted son’s choice to travel back to India to find his birth mother is an emotional knockout of what maternal love and devotion looks like.

 

Nor is the problem in Dev Patel’s textured, soulful performance as the adult Saroo. Patel’s work here is nuanced and completely absorbing, even when the film is operating at the emotional and visual equivalent of the color beige. His large eyes are deeply expressive, and his haunted look as repressed memories come flooding back is an astounding bit of minute acting for the screen. He carries the next hour entirely on his slender shoulders with grace and ease, even as Lion quickly loses momentum and sputters towards its rousing finish.

 

For a film that roared out of the gate (sorry!), Lion quickly yawns as it goes more formulaic and guarded. The tension of the first hour evaporates like steam, and it takes us nearly 50 minutes to get from Australia back to India for Saroo’s reunion with his birth mother. Lion is frustrating in how imperfect it is, but it is also a deeply felt and pleasing film. Give me ten more films like this before I have to suffer through another Hacksaw Ridge.



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Captain Fantastic

Posted : 4 months, 1 week ago on 13 February 2017 01:48 (A review of Captain Fantastic)

If I had to summarize my reaction to Captain Fantastic in one word, it would be ugh.

 

Here is a film that wants to be both an examination of a deeply involved father, some kind of satire about going off the grid, an emotional family drama, and just an all-around uncomfortable mixture of quirk and emotional honesty. There’s a few things I liked about Captain Fantastic, but not enough of them to recommend it.

 

It seems like every year another one of these quirk-fest family dramedies makes its way into the Oscar race, but this has to be the nadir of that recent trend. At least it only made it into the Best Actor race for Viggo Mortensen’s wonderfully complex and quiet work. I’m not sure how I feel about this being his second nomination in favor of better work in films like A History of Violence or A Dangerous Method, but here we are in the wild world of Oscar politicking.

 

The main problem with Captain Fantastic is that it sets up its basic premise, then proceeds to do nothing major with it. Why exactly did he and his wife decide to leave it all behind and go live off of the land? What’s the endgame for this family? Did they not think about how important learning to adept, move in, and work within the larger society is a necessary survival skill to have? Was this family just going to eventually inbreed and turn into the long-distant cousins of Deliverance? Well, don’t expect anything resembling coherent interaction with the plot to be found. But there’s a scene where the characters all burn the corpse of their mother on the beach while turning “Sweet Child O’ Mine” into a twee campfire sing-along, so there’s that going for it, I guess?

 

The other major problem with Captain Fantastic is that it introduces the concept of these kids being forced back into modern society and civilization, and how ill equipped they are to deal with it. The kids rage against their dad and his questionable choices, understandably from my vantage point, but then they turn around and exhibit undying loyalty to him. This film wants to both ways, and doesn’t want either of them at the same time. But hey, Viggo Mortensen goes full-frontal for no reason, and his performance is layered, complex, and better than this shallow, overly long movie deserves. Has broad cartoonish whimsy ever felt so oppressive?



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Nocturnal Animals

Posted : 4 months, 1 week ago on 13 February 2017 01:48 (A review of Nocturnal Animals)

Tom Ford’s directorial debut, A Single Man, was an emotionally engrossing story told with visual flourish and a series of strong, effecting performances. Something similar could be said about his follow-up, Nocturnal Animals. While his debut was a beautiful film, this one is aesthetically beautiful while surrounding a pulpy, trashy narrative. Your mileage for vary for the grotesquery and emotional evisceration on display, but I think of this as a minor trashterpiece. Maybe even a major one if I revisit in a few years.

 

There’s a few timelines going on here, two happening in reality, and the third a meta-narrative of one character’s book-within-the-film. There’s the present time, where Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is trapped in a crumbling marriage (to Armie Hammer), and deeply unsatisfied with her career and life in general. Then there are the flashbacks to Susan’s former relationship and eventual divorce from an idealist writer (Jake Gyllenhaal). Finally, there’s the novel that Gyllenhaal has written and sent to Adams. This last thread is the ugliest one, but also the most crucial to tying all of the disparate threads together.

 

His novel, from where the film derives its title, is part revenge screed against Susan for cheating on him, the divorce, and a cathartic expulsion of his emotional uncertainty and anger in the wake of those events. There’s no forgiveness to be found here, but there’s plenty of bloodletting, violence, and trauma. Susan’s eventual realization of which man truly loved her and the visceral slap in the face she receives leave the audience with no true feeling of closure. There’s just injured pride and more emotional violence committed against these characters. Of course, Susan’s choice of surface luxury in lieu of emotional substance and stability is a tragedy of her own making.

 

As Susan continues reading the proof of the novel, we see the real-life inspirations for the exaggerated tragedies and blood-soaked masculine revenge games. These links are frequently clumsy as a passive-aggressive fight between lovers can lead to an assault. Or a moment where he discovers her cheating with her future husband transforms into the mutual deaths of two characters. Tom Ford’s directorial gusto is noble for the devotion he brings towards marrying melodrama and pulp together, and his eye cannot be faulted. He’s still learning the ropes as a director, but only two films in as disparate and wild as these two and I think it’s safe to say that I’m a fan and look forward to his next project.

 

And if Ford can keep attracting talent as high as these two films, then his future projects should really be an immediate ping on your radar. Not only do we get Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal (in a double-role of sorts), Armie Hammer, but Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough (so good as an artificial member of the artistic glitterati), Jena Malone, Michael Sheen, and Isla Fisher show up for small roles. But there’s two performances that really standout here. Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a mangy, flea-bitten redneck who terrorizes the characters within the novel’s structure, and Michael Shannon as the Texas lawman who chases after him. Shannon, one of great cinematic eccentrics, gives enough manic, wild performance that’s as engrossing as it is individualistic. Look at the uber-macho way he deals with a coughing fit and his revelation of a cancer diagnosis. No wonder Shannon walked off with this film’s lone Oscar nomination.

 

There’s a lot going on in Nocturnal Animals, perhaps too much, but goddamn if I wasn’t totally sold on this weird-fest. Between the immaculate images, the gloriously oddball performances, the trifecta of timelines vying for attention, it all adds up to something singular and unique. Even when it falters (is some of this supposed be as broadly comic as it plays?), Nocturnal Animals is still a fascinating experience.



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Zootopia

Posted : 4 months, 2 weeks ago on 6 February 2017 09:57 (A review of Zootopia)

Disney makes a buddy-cop mystery movie that’s actually an allegory for racism and prejudice. This is not immediately evident from the opening scenes, which introduce us to Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin, adorably plucky) and her dream of becoming the first bunny on the Zootopia police force. You couldn’t be faulted for thinking that this was going to be another dip into the following your dreams/you can be anything you set your mind on balm that Disney pumps into us all. Then it suddenly shifts within the first twenty minutes into a clear story saying what we needed loudly proclaimed in 2016: that xenophobia and prejudices are harmful and must be combatted for the betterment of our society.

 

Zootopia is richest when cracking jokes and making complex issues digestible for the kiddies in its target audience, even if it occasionally does play against its own better judgement. There’s a few instances of the film making unintentional cases for stereotypes being stereotypes for reasons, and the entirety of Zootopia is broken apart into various environs. That’s right, even in this post-predator/prey binary society the types of animals don’t completely interact together with these separate communities. This last fact isn’t commented upon as such, and it does feel like a failing of the film to entirely engage with it.

 

But Zootopia is strong enough in several other areas to overcome these problems, mainly in the rapid-fire jokes and leading characters. Judy Hopps is a refreshing continuation of Disney’s recent penchant for crafting female heroines that want anything but a prince and a happily ever after. Hopps puts her entire focus into being a cop, being a damn good one too, serving her city, doing what’s right, and trying to overcome her own prejudices. That she’s partnered with a sly fox (Jason Bateman, snark personified) is a smart move, and their chemistry as characters creates numerous moments of great friction-heavy friendship. Eventually they’re revealed as kindred spirits, but they took different paths to the obstacles and traumas of their childhoods.

 

Don’t think that this is a heavily sermonizing film though, it’s refreshingly crisp and hilarious. A personal favorite humorous side character is Tommy Chong’s nudist Yax, there’s a great payoff as to why a sloth is nicknamed Flash, and an opening verbal gag about learning to settle and be complacent as the reason for happiness. Zootopia is also just gorgeous to take in, with visual gags and great details packed into every frame. Disney’s resurgence is most deeply felt in films like this, Wreck-It Ralph, The Emperor’s New Groove, and Lilo & Stitch. Zootopia comfortably sits alongside those films as a very bright spot in the studio’s recent output.



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Hacksaw Ridge

Posted : 4 months, 2 weeks ago on 4 February 2017 11:38 (A review of Hacksaw Ridge)

Desmond Doss’ story is unique, and deserves to be told for the bravery and emotional commitment to his deeply held beliefs. However, Mel Gibson, an actor/director who practically licks his lips and pleasures himself to mosaics of carnage, is not the right voice to bring that material to life. Hacksaw Ridge is a mess, a film that all but pins a permanent halo around Andrew Garfield’s adorable face while gleefully taking pleasure in its scenes of violence. Call it pious gore porn for the fundamentalist Christian set.

 

The same brigade of Academy voters who ushered in large nomination scores for American Sniper and Bridge of Spies, both sleepy, tedious films that conservative dad and/or uncle types love, dropped six nominations into this film’s lap. I get the sound awards, maybe even the editing, but this is one of the best-directed movies of the year? This is one of the best pictures of 2016?

 

I can’t entirely begrudge Andrew Garfield’s nomination since he has to make this thing work, and he tries his best. He never condescends to the character; in fact, he invests Doss with a sense of religious purpose and truth. Garfield’s innately sweet face brings sincerity to any character that he plays, but it feels awkward that this would be his career-first nomination. He was so tremendous in The Social Network, wonderfully doomed in Red Riding: 1974, part of a terrific trio of delicate performances in Never Let Me Go, and won a BAFTA for Boy A. It was just a matter of time before AMPAS finally bestowed him with a nomination, but it is a shame that it took him talking like Huckleberry Hound in a disingenuous piece of gore porn to finally get one.

 

The film’s failure to engage with the material in any meaningful way is present from the earliest scenes, in this case flashbacks to the abusive childhood Doss endured. These scarring childhood episodes are presented in all the creamy tones of a Norman Rockwell painting. We don’t see Doss question or engage with his father’s drunken antics, his mother’s ridiculous piety, and his family’s religious zealotry in any thoughtful way. There’s no depth, just a vague sense of our hero as a Messiah-in-training.

 

Then the film switches to the titular location, and out comes Gibson’s lascivious treatment of violence. Here’s a film extolling the virtues of a conscientious objector while furiously masturbating to images of soldiers having their brains shot out, getting blown up, set aflame. The bloodlust is strong, strong enough to make me recoil in deep discomfort as it parallels these images with Doss in Christ-like imagery and baptismal symbolism.

 

I wonder if another director would have questioned whether or not Doss’ deep religious beliefs and patriotism are compatible, and how they are instead of just paying lip service to all of it. Even worse is just how terrible some of the dialog is. It dumps its themes and ideas in all caps letters, practically bolded above the heads of the characters. At least cinematography of Simon Duggan keeps unfurling a series of beautiful images to distract you from the stupidity of what’s falling out of the characters mouths. There’s a better movie to be made out of the parts of Hacksaw Ridge, but Gibson isn’t the director to bring it to the screen. The darker and more interesting questions and implications seem out of his reach, and this leaves it slightly inept. It’s more interesting to talk about Doss and his true story then it is to talk about the film made out of his life.



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Hidden Figures

Posted : 4 months, 3 weeks ago on 1 February 2017 04:20 (A review of Hidden Figures)

Are we slowly seeing the burgeoning of a new sub-genre? Something along the lines of “science is fucking awesome,” with recent entries being The Martian and Arrival. But there’s also something of a corrective action at play throughout Hidden Figures as it celebrates things that have been systematically oppressed – women and minorities most obviously.

 

While Hidden Figures is a solidly made feel good experience, there is a certain sheen of falseness that pervades all of these types of films. The micro-aggressions and casual racism and misogyny these women face make them heroic in my mind for not going insane in the face of it, but the film demands a heroic white male savior to clear the way for progress. Kevin Costner’s gruff boss destroying the labelled bathrooms is engineered to make the audience cheer (which it did during the screening I watched while I rolled my eyes), and it feels like a false note in a film that has so much good will and positivity radiating from it.

 

At least Hidden Figures doesn’t break its white characters into noble types and cartoon racist like The Help, instead allowing for several of them to casually demonstrate bias behind the justification of “that’s just how things are.” This feels far more realistic, and it is these moments that make better impressions throughout, especially for the subtle shifts in characters that appear throughout. Like Octavia Spencer confronting Kirsten Dunst in a bathroom that eventually leads to Dunst having Spencer promoted to supervisor of the IBM computing machine.

 

Even better is the casualness of the obstacles they must overcome to simply do their jobs. The casualness of the sexism, white men in suits get the higher paying jobs built on the backs of the calculations of the women, and the women never get the credit. You root for them to succeed, to slowly dismantle the system, to get the credit for their hard won battles and incredibly valuable contributions. Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) is the underpaid de facto supervisor of the Colored Computers, and she makes herself invaluable (along with her girls) by learning how to program and run the IBM machine. Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) sues to attend an all-white engineering program so that she can become NASA’s first black female engineer. While a bulk of the film focuses in on Katharine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), a mathematical genius who fights for her place in the effort to launch John Glenn into space.

 

The consistent obstructionism is a solid source of dramatic tension, and Hidden Figures is a tonic that we need right now. Not only does it make the argument for progressive ideals like equality and how we’re stronger together, but it places the crux of its arguments on quips like “the numbers don’t lie.” We need this film to remind us when American values are at their greatest, and hopefully some good will come of this film in an influx of young black girls going into STEM education. My day job is at an aerospace engineering and earth science research center tied to a university, and the field desperately needs more diversity. A film like Hidden Figures shows young girls that yes, it is possible, and I dream that its lasting legacy will be a noticeable uptick down the line.

 

Hidden Figures strongest asset comes in the form of its impeccable ensemble players. I mean no disrespect to Octavia Spencer’s second Oscar nomination for her work here, but why is she the lone player singled out? It feels a bit like favoritism to a former winner over other worthy players that deserved equal consideration. Janelle Monae is equally strong (maybe even stronger), and this may be Henson’s best screen work to date. Dunst, Jim Parsons, Glen Powell, and Kevin Costner are all reliably solid. Mahershala Ali, having a banner year, is slightly underserved here, but he’s so good that I would watch him do just about anything. They make the material soar high even when its writing dips into predictability or pat morality.

 

Even if I don’t think it’s a perfect movie, I can’t begrudge it any of its nominations. It’s too important, and lesser films have been nominated for more or won. I just hope that the box office dominance and high praise for this film provide something of a siren call for more diverse films. Now, if we could only do something about the white savior trope. 



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Florence Foster Jenkins

Posted : 4 months, 3 weeks ago on 30 January 2017 10:17 (A review of Florence Foster Jenkins)

So, I guess we’re just throwing Oscar nominations at Meryl Streep for any old role nowadays. Post-Adaptation (what a performance that was!), Streep’s Oscar nominations (and wins) are a mixed bag of gorgon-like overacting (August: Osage County), middling biographical film that left her with nothing to do (The Iron Lady), and thinly written comedic roles (The Devil Wears Prada). Add another broadly comedic creation to that list of lazy nominations, yet another tread through Streep’s tendency towards going after projects that allow her to shine to the detriment of the rest of the material.

 

I would say this is odd considering that Stephen Frears is behind the camera here, but ever since Mrs. Henderson Presents he’s given over to handsomely made baubles that garner Oscar nominations and give a grand diva of cinema the shine to tear into a likably daft role. These films and performances feel hollow compared to the depths Frears brought to The Grifters, My Beautiful Launderette, and Dangerous Liaisons. There’s no excavation into the depths of Florence Foster Jenkins as a woman here, just the treatment of her as a likably eccentric woman completely unaware of her musical inabilities. In fact, Streep makes her variation of Florence so likable that you almost feel bad for questioning her motives or laughing at her horrific singing voice.

 

This gloves off treatment of the material is a serious detriment, and the entire film becomes another example of the “feel good” emotional manipulation so many of these stories engineer. There’s darker impulses at play here, but Florence Foster Jenkins wants to give you the warm fuzzies instead of seriously explore the truth of the material. Look no further than Hugh Grant’s performance as Florence’s husband, who occupies a strange mixture of parasite, enabler, supporter, and friend. The movie flattens him out, although Grant’s innate befuddled worminess brings that certain oily charm into it naturally, essentially being lazy and forcing a movie star’s normal charisma to do some of the heavy-lifting for the script.

 

Florence Foster Jenkins wants us to feel good about ourselves for propping up the delusions of grandeur of an eccentric, wealthy woman. I call bullshit on this. A majority of the film plays out like a Marx Brothers movie starring Margaret Dumont but the Brother never show. We just follow around this wealthy socialite and are expected to downplay our critical thinking skills in favor of propping up a deluded ego. It’s warm and fuzzy, but it adds up to nothing of import. There’s tragedy and comedy to mine from the real story of Florence Foster Jenkins, but you won’t find much of it here.



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Jackie

Posted : 4 months, 3 weeks ago on 29 January 2017 07:03 (A review of Jackie)

There are two different films colliding throughout Jackie, one about the days after JFK’s assassination, this one is generic if well acted and beautifully shot, and another about how Jackie Kennedy used her power to sanctify his legacy, this one is far superior. The part of Jackie that focuses in on the former First Lady’s struggle to maintain her agency, proliferate the family’s legacy, and mourn her losses in shockingly intimate detail. It breaks the back of a biographical film and reveals that Natalie Portman’s performance is as much of an act as Kennedy’s exacting control of the interview.

 

Jackie makes the case that Jackie Kennedy’s role as First Lady was that of PR maven, creating the legacy of JFK as the “People’s President” with her infamous White House tour, and continuing on with the Life magazine article, public funeral, and actions in the days following his assassination. Her actions were extremely successful, think of how we’ve dubbed the Kennedy political dynasty as “Camelot,” how the Kennedys have ascended to something approximating royalty. A measly two years was the entirety of JFK’s tenure as president, yet his legacy and visage lingers in the American popular consciousness for a variety of reasons, and credit must be placed at Jackie’s immaculately styled and clothed feet.

 

But it’s the multilayered performance and character study that Natalie Portman provides the film that is the biggest strength. The script is probably a work of large fiction, but it brilliantly blurs the line between the public and private personas of the famous historical figures at play here. Portman’s delicately modulated performance demonstrates this balance throughout, most notably during the recreation of the White House tour where Jackie plays hostess and tries to use television to build a bridge between the general public and its ruling class. The obvious strengths of her performance, the expert vocal inflections and impeccable costuming, are only emboldened by the quieter strength of Portman’s work. Her face must change between public and private emotions in intense close-ups frequently and quickly, and she’s rarely not in a scene or the frame. If the doomed perfectionist of Black Swan was a career high for Portman, then this portrait of a grieving widow trying to keep her sanity and her power towers over that one.

 

But all is not brilliantly executed in Jackie. The interview works as a framing device, and occasionally the framing device goes crooked in setting up the sections that we launch back into and witness from Jackie’s specific point-of-view. It’s not that Billy Crudup’s performance isn’t strong, it is, but he’s clearly a mere pawn to the steely resolved queen before him. These interview segments can feel self-conscious, and the clear artifice of them stands in contrast to the raw grief and specificity of detail in the numerous flashbacks.

 

The ambition on display here is admirable even if Jackie ends up tripping itself up along the way. After a while, the two distinct movies collide echoing the power struggles in the narrative. The better movie won out in the end for me, but I can understand detractors thinking this movie is too cold, thinks its smarter than it is, but I found it emotionally involving, fascinating in its character study, and beautiful to look at and listen to.



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