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Movie Review: 'Jackie' Stars Natalie Portman As Jacqueline Kennedy

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

More than half a century after she left the White House, former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy remains an object of fascination. A new film pulls back the curtain to reveal things we did not know about one of the world's most famous women. MORNING EDITION and LA Times film critic Kenneth Turan reviews "Jackie."

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Jackie" is an unexpected success. It couldn't have been easy to make a film about the former first lady that's true to her tragic history and alive to the unexplored drama of a heavily scrutinized life. More surprisingly, this story of an American legend was directed by the Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain, who'd never worked in English before. And the star is Natalie Portman, an Oscar winner who seems with this performance to be finally coming into her own. "Jackie" is an examination of the post-assassination week when Mrs. Kennedy had to deal with her personal devastation as well as questions of preserving her husband's legacy.

Director Larrain is not a mainstream name, but "Jackie" demonstrates his ability to join an art house sensibility with a broader popular touch. Larrain told his producers he wouldn't do "Jackie" without Portman, and her superb performance, convincing without being anything like an impersonation, vindicates his determination. Her Jacqueline Kennedy is half resolute warrior, half frightened wreck.

Though "Jackie" features strong work by the supporting cast, finally it's the powerful complicity of star and director that has made all the difference. At the film's world premier at the Venice Film Festival, I ended up seated directly behind Portman and Larrain. When they took their bows and hugged for photographers, I noticed how extraordinarily tight their embrace was, a mutually intense grasp that seemed to say it was not easy, but we did it. We really did it. And so they have.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the LA Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.