I thought, after Black Swan, that now Natalie Portman had her Academy Award, she’d switch to the business side of movies. Maybe she’d semi-retire and concentrate on her family.
In the six years since her Oscar triumph, Portman became a mother to a baby son; gave a lacklustre turn as Thor‘s love interest; moved to Paris with her French husband; had a go at producing, writing and directing.
When photos of her as Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy were released, I rolled my eyes, expecting her only to live down to Katie Holmes’ panned portrayal in the eight-part miniseries The Kennedys.
However, at its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Jackie really got the critics buzzing. Chilean director Pablo Larraín and screenwriter Noah Oppenheim are being praised for their bold approach, but it is Portman who really wowed the festival crowds.
So how come a clip on Youtube has got some people puzzled…This performance?
It’s not fair to judge on one short scene, but this sounds like a painful turn from Portman, like she is working so hard to imitate Kennedy’s docile speaking voice it dominates her performance.
Critics (who have seen the whole thing) are enamoured with the movie and with Portman, but they also seem desperate to defend her mannered performance style.
“When Portman speaks in that demure New England dialect, she tends to come off too mannered. With every dropped “R,” it becomes obvious Portman is trying very, very hard to be someone she’s not,” said US Weekly, while praising her screen presence and ability to carry the movie.
“At first, Portman seems distracting in the role, the accent catching in her throat, her every line and mannerism coming across as studied. But that affected quality is all part of the strategy of Jackie,” wrote A.A Down at The AV Club.
“Portman’s highly affected performance is deliberately off-putting at first…Portman’s never been one to disappear into her roles, but here that’s a strength. The fact that she always feels like she’s acting lends the character a tragic dimension,” said a BBC Culture review out of TIFF.
Which reads as: “So although she is mannered and it’s obvious this is Portman ACTING, it works in the context of the film because….because we’re all so in love with her OK?…..My lord THAT FACE!”
Portman is probably tied at the moment with La La Land‘s Emma Stone as early front-runner for Best Actress, in what is shaping up to be a really competitive year.
I don’t have a particular dislike for Portman, but while the public worship her as a Harvard-educated Serious Actress, she has a career strewn with dodgy accents and critical ambivalence. It’s Leon – Closer – Black Swan – basically the only times she’s ever been good, and that’s to the credit of her directors.
This is the woman Time magazine said can “look utterly stranded on screen — bereft of an actor’s most rudimentary tools…”
Jackie has a December release lined up in the USA. No word on a UK release yet, but I’ll be sure to give the movie a fair go.