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Jackie: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Jackie (2016) movie poster Jackie

Theatrical Release: December 2, 2016 / Running Time: 100 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Pablo Larraín / Writer: Noah Oppenheim

Cast: Natalie Portman (Jackie Kennedy), Peter Sarsgaard (Bobby Kennedy), Greta Gerwig (Nancy Tuckerman), Richard E. Grant (Bill Walton), Caspar Phillipson (John F. Kennedy), John Carroll Lynch (Lyndon B. Johnson), Beth Grant (Lady Bird Johnson), Max Casella (Jack Valenti), Billy Crudup (The Journalist), John Hurt (The Priest)

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Much like The Queen's depiction of Queen Elizabeth II following the death of Princess Diana, Jackie dramatizes the life of Jacqueline Kennedy
in the wake of her husband's assassination.

Like her husband, Jackie (portrayed by Natalie Portman) stood out among First Ladies of the United States. She was young, attractive, wealthy, and educated. She was also sitting next to her husband when he took a fatal gunshot to the head as they rode in the back of the presidential limousine as part of a motorcade in Dallas in the fall of 1963.

Directed by Chile's Pablo Larraín (Foreign Language Oscar nominee No and not-shortlisted 2016 hopeful Neruda) from an original screenplay by Noah Oppenheim (The Maze Runner, Allegiant), Jackie begins in the immediate aftermath of that tragedy, with Mrs. Kennedy, swiftly stripped of her First Lady status with the swearing in of Lyndon B. Johnson, coping with her loss while having a say in the funeral arrangements.

"Jackie" stars Natalie Portman as First Lady Jackie Kennedy, who is seen giving an interview shortly after her husband's assassination.

Providing something of a frame story, the widow is interviewed by an unnamed print journalist (Billy Crudup), who is respectful but candid and determined to get some forthright confessions from the grieving mother of two young children. We jump from their discussion to a faithfully recreated black and white television program from a couple of years earlier in which Mrs. Kennedy toured her family's famous home, the White House.

Mrs. Kennedy wants a memorial service befitting her husband, instructing staff members to use Abraham Lincoln's funeral as a template. Her husband's brother Bobby (Peter Sarsgaard) is often nearby to respectfully question her plans while attempting to shield her from some aspects during this trying time. As the Kennedys have to move out of the White House, there is a new administration to deal with and a small birthday party to throw just days later for John Jr., turning three.

When she's not talking to the journalist or Bobby, Jackie is confiding in her longtime friend and social secretary Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) and trying to make sense of the loss with help from an aging priest (John Hurt in one of his final roles).

Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) and Robert Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) sit in silence while riding along with the casket holding assassinated president John F. Kennedy, her husband and his brother.

As you might imagine, Jackie is a showcase for Portman. She puts on the First Lady's somewhat recognizable mid-century, upper class New York accent. It's a touch distracting at first, but you grow accustomed to it as you soak in the layers of the performance. Long before her husband's death, Jackie was someone that people looked up to in admiration.
Fortunately, the film is more interested in humanizing Kennedy than beatifying her. Jackie smokes, she raises her voice, and she doesn't always know the presidential thing to do. Even someone born into privilege and culture isn't bound to be at ease filling a high-profile position only a few dozen other women have held before her. And nearly three eventful years on that job couldn't have prepared her for what was to come on that fateful November afternoon.

Jackie consistently compels. It avoids the distractions of casting a bunch of well-known actors to be transformed to resemble well-known figures, issues that plagued the likes of Lee Daniels' The Butler and Oliver Stone's W. Portman looks the part, as does Sarsgaard. John Carroll Lynch is enough of a chameleon to pass for President Johnson. And though he doesn't get to do a whole lot of acting, Caspar Phillipson is kind of the spitting image of JFK.

Instead of recreating the Kennedys' time in office, Jackie unfolds like something of an intimate stage play, deconstructing Jackie's grief and perspective undoubtedly from a mix of public record and Oppenheim's imagination. Aside from one graphic and seemingly unnecessary shot of the world-changing headshot, the film tends to opt for quieter reflection and fairly restrained emotion. This couldn't be much further in style and tone from the most famous film on the Kennedy assassination, Stone's investigation-opening 1991 conspiracy thriller. Jackie is much more akin to The Queen.

That 2006 film won Helen Mirren the Oscar for Best Actress and also picked up five other nominations, including three in major categories. Jackie seemed destined for similar recognition. Portman, who won six years ago for Black Swan, was at least guaranteed to compete for a second statuette. But after a strong start with a win at the Critics' Choice and all the major nominations she could draw, both Portman and the film cooled off in the awards race. It ended up picking three Oscar nominations: Portman for Best Actress and nods in Best Costume Design and Best Score. It won none of the three, with those awards going to Emma Stone, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and La La Land.

The less than expected awards season presence did not help the film find an audience. Essentially finished with its theater count down to double digits, Jackie has grossed just under $14 million domestically, less than all nine of the Best Picture nominees. It reached stores this week in a DVD + Digital HD edition and the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack reviewed here.

Jackie: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.66:1 Widescreen
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Video Service, Spanish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Descriptive Video Service, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Book-Like Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD + Digital HD ($29.98 SRP) and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Jackie is distinctive visually. It employs the 1.66:1 aspect ratio that hasn't been in standard use for a long time. It also attempts to recreate (and succeeds) a look from the era it dramatizes, from early '60s black and white television to grainy '60s film stock. The Blu-ray presents the vision without any concerns or seemingly unwanted qualities. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio does a nice job of distributing Mica Levi's eerie score.

Natalie Portman looks puzzled by the direction Pablo Larraín gives her in "From Jackie to Camelot", but the accolades and awards suggest it turned out all right. Jackie's social secretary Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) oversees her son's birthday party in this photo gallery still.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The main extra here is "From Jackie to Camelot" (22:25),

a thorough making-of featurette covering the bases you want and collecting thoughtful thoughts on the film from those who made it. It makes up for the lack of an audio commentary.

Next up is a photo gallery, which can be advanced by remote or on its own. It consists of 31 publicity-friendly images, most of them simple film stills but a few behind-the-scenes shots as well. Fox's persistent belief in the photo gallery is kind of strange, but also a little endearing.

Jackie's shorter than average theatrical trailer (1:38) is preserved.

Finally, Sneak Peek holds the same three items, with which the discs open: a promo for Digital HD and trailers for Hidden Figures and Miss Sloane.

The menu loops a screen-filling montage of clips and an excerpt of Mica Levi's Oscar-nominated score.

One of the most noteworthy aspects of this otherwise straightforward release. The obligatory slipcover opens look like a book to display a wide glossy shot with critical acclaim laid over it. The Digital HD insert accompanies the two mostly red discs inside the eco-friendly keepcase.

On the eve of her husband's funeral, Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) consults the priest performing the service (John Hurt in one of his final roles).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Jackie failed to live up to awards season expectations or find much of an audience, but Pablo Larraín's intimate portrait of a grieving First Lady is both stately and fascinating. Fox's Blu-ray combo pack treats the film to fine picture and sound plus a solid making-of featurette. This may not be a must-own, but the film is definitely worth seeing and this edition serves it well.

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: MoonlightArrivalHacksaw RidgeManchester by the SeaDoctor StrangeAlliedThe Edge of Seventeen
Natalie Portman: Black SwanJane Got a GunKnight of CupsThe Other Boleyn GirlThor
Peter Sarsgaard: An EducationBlue JasmineLovelaceOrphan | Greta Gerwig: Frances HaMaggie's PlanMistress America
The QueenFlorence Foster JenkinsGrey GardensSelmaLee Daniels' The Butler

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Reviewed March 9, 2017.



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