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Jackie (2/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 99 minutes including credits.

OK for children.

Actresses who try to sound like the people they portray make a big mistake. Even though Cate Blanchett won an Oscar® for her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator (2004), it was one of the most achingly awful performances I’ve ever witnessed. That was, however, before I saw Meryl Streep try to talk like Julia Childs in Julie and Julia (2009); Ugh!

So when Natalie Portman tries to speak like Jackie spoke, she just comes across sounding like a moron. Since the movie does not show Jackie in anything close to a positive light, maybe this was intentional. Whatever, anyone who watches this film and believes it, will never again view Jackie Kennedy Onassis positively.

The movie is about Jackie’s actions when JFK was assassinated. Most of the time she walks around like a zombie, doing whatever people told her to do. Only later in the film does she begin to have some thoughts of her own and to get her way.

She’s not the only one to be maligned, however. Just about every character in the movie comes across poorly, none more so than Ladybird Johnson (Beth Grant). I can only assume that in today’s day and age when makeup experts can work wonders, when director Pablo Lorain makes Ladybird look as bad as she looks in this movie, it was deliberate.

Peter Sarsgaard, who has been one of my more admired actors since his appearance in Shattered Glass (2003), plays Bobby Kennedy and gives the worst performance of his career. At least he had the smarts to not try to ape Bobby’s accent.

Could they have gotten anybody who looks older and more decrepit than John Hurt to play the priest? He looked as if he had just risen from the grave for a monster movie in order to listen to Jackie. And who wrote those lines (answer: Noah Oppenheim, who obviously knows virtually nothing about how a Catholic priest operates)? Yikes! Any priest who gave such grotesque counsel would be stricken with a bolt of lightning from heaven.

Billy Crudup, who generally gives very good performances is perfectly dreadful as the journalist interviewing Jackie, but could Laurence Olivier have done better with such appalling lines?

So, what’s to make of all these fine actors giving such horrible performances? The blame must fall on the aforementioned writer and director Lorain, who has spent his career making films in Chile which, apparently, makes him the perfect guy to make a film about someone considered by many to be an American icon. Not!