When Time Stood Still
Stars: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Max Casella, Beth Grant, Caspar Phillipson, John Carroll Lynch and John Hurt
Director: Pablo Larrain
Scriptwriter: Noah Oppenheim
Composer: Mica Levi
check on www.tollbooth.org for review of “Jackie” soundtrack
Cinematographer: Stephane Fontain
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Rating: R for assassination reenactment and themed material
Running Length: 100 minutes
Screened at Kansas International Film Festival (KIFF) Nov .4, 2016
The music is what gets to you at the beginning of this film. It is ominous. You can't quite place it, but as the film continues, you realize that each section of music is based on two adjoining notes, such as G flat and A flat. You realize the composer (Mica Levi) is writing to the idea of two people joined through marriage and a presidency and this is the theme of the story of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (“Jackie”) also. This behind- the-background idea was also used in the soundtrack for last year’s “Sicario” by Johann Johannsson, who used “Three Blind Mice” as the hidden theme.
“Jackie” gives the audience the immediacy of what happened when President John F. Kennedy was shot on November 22,1963. Through flashbacks from the assassination to autopsy to planning a funeral, we also see what led up to the President being in Dallas that day, and the life he and Jackie and their children had before his death. This is all tied together by music and the performance of Natalie Portman as Jackie. Now, there have been many actresses in the past who have taken on the role of Jackie Kennedy, going from 1985 (Juanin Clay) to 2000 (Joanne Whalley) to Jeanne Tripplehorn (2009) to Katie Holmes (2011) and Ginnifer Goodwin in 2013. Natalie Portman gives us the physicality of Jackie Kennedy, her determination to have a state funeral and having to go against the system of men-planning to make sure this funeral would stand out. She succeeded.
The storyline has Jackie, after the assassination and living in Hyannis Port, Mass. being interviewed for Life magazine by reporter Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup). He is intimidated by her--and it looks as though she likes playing cat-and-mouse, but in the end he does get an interview. Though it all, we see the meeting of John and Jackie, their marriage, children, life at the White House, and Jackie trying to come out of her shell of shyness. She makes a first impression of being haughty, when, in reality, she is shy and this life in the spotlight can get to be too much, too soon.
The assassination scene and hospital later, are graphic, even cringe-worthy. The audience is in the car with Jackie. Then comes, having to deal with protocol along with an autopsy, reporters, and congressional people. Jackie can see the work of her husband slowly shifting in another direction as Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as the next President. It’s like sitting in a boat and suddenly you see the dock receding behind you and there’s nothing you can do about it. In fact, a classic photo of John and Jackie, has them on a sailing boat with the wind tossing her hair and he with a big smile on his face. A happy time that is now a memory time.
Natalie Portman is on screen most of the time in this film and we see her from happy to nervous (TV shows) to gracious (concerts at the White House) to being a mother and mourning the loss of a child, Patrick. Her facial expressions are stoic in public, but in private, looking at her mirror, you can see stress there, though her body language is always good posture and a hat and gloves. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Natalie Portman will certainly get a Best Actress nomination for “Jackie,” but also may win the Oscar, too. This also happened in 2011 with her performance in “”Black Swan.”
Where were you on November 22, 1963?
Copyright 2016 Marie Asner
For reviews of more films starring Natalie Portman see the following: