Jackie ★★½

47/100

Feel like I'm being punk'd here, à la the psych experiment that has half a dozen people give an obviously incorrect answer to a simple question, following which many subjects then also give the wrong answer so as to avoid looking stupid. Good one, colleagues, pretending that the dude who wrote The Maze Runner and Allegiant somehow miraculously discovered subtlety and subtext, turning the final week of November '63 into a finely etched portrait of high-visibility grieving that's also an incisive study of legacy construction. I mean, that sounds great, as you describe it. I would like very much to see that film. Instead, I saw a "prestige drama" written by someone who specializes in adaptations of dystopian YA novels, in which Jackie vomits up such Cliff Notes as

"I believe that the characters we read about on the page end up being more real than the men who stand beside us."

and

"They wanted to share my grief, so I let them. But after, I realized that all the pageantry, all the demands I made to honor him…it wasn’t for Jack, or his legacy. It was for me."

Hey, thanks for that. Jesus. (She's talking to her priest in both instances, please note—you can't make the case that these lines are intentionally vapid, aimed at the public.)

Meanwhile, Larraín, who did such gorgeously expressive work in Neruda (a superior film in almost every way), decides that his best bet is to keep slowly pushing in on Portman's quivering face, in what plays like a somber parody of art-film direction. Her much-admired performance is to my eyes a jarring amalgam of superficial impersonation and actorly self-consciousness (as distinctly opposed to the self-consciousness of a debutante turned First Lady). Jackie only really comes alive at its most ghoulish, when it shows things that seem unimaginable: Jackie cradling her husband's shattered head in her lap en route to Parkland, wiping his blood off of her face a bit later. The rest is mostly exposition. Levi's score deserved better.