Any fears that Pablo Larraín would smooth over the poised spikiness of his Chilean features in order to make a more palatable English language debut were put to rest this week with a rapturous Venice reception for his Jackie, with reviews especially singling out Natalie Portman’s performance as the eponymous First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. For those salivating to see Portman in mid-Atlantic action ahead of the film’s as yet undecided release date, the first clip from the film surfaced quickly thereafter. Jackie follows its heroine through the immediate wake of her husband’s assassination and, in this clip, she slyly pulls the rug out from under LBJ liason Jack Valenti (yes, that Jack Valenti of MPAA fame) in regards to her public role in JFK's funeral arrangements.
One of my favorite aspects of Larraín’s filmmaking is the thick coat of unsaid tension he can paint across a dialogue scene through precisely punctuated edits between polite adversaries – think of the moral ignitions within the living room interviews in The Club – and this scene exhibits that skill in spades. His eye for period detail and hazy texture translate beautifully; there’s a plywood stuffiness to the yesteryear political interiors of No’s production design that appear in this White House, as well. And as for Portman? She reminds us that Jackie’s purr didn’t just belong to a docile house cat but a ferocious lion that knows right when to corner and pounce. Make her my ringtone.
What do you make of this first look at Natalie Portman’s Jackie Kennedy?