Her hands, wrapped in dove-white gloves, press down on a scrap of scalp that’s been dislodged by a bullet. The president’s blood forms an ugly pattern across her pink Chanel skirt. Later, she’ll discard the pillbox hat to wash the dark smears of blood from her flushed face. Pablo Larraín’s Jackie follows Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) on and after Nov. 22, 1963, the day her responsibilities as first lady changed. The director recreates scenes from her television special “A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy” along with a formal concert gala there featuring the cellist Pablo Casals. As she manages her grief and the details of her husband’s funeral, Jackie reshapes her gift for statecraft into stagecraft. From her long veil to the procession toward St. Matthew’s Cathedral, she orchestrates the scene like a set piece from a Greek tragedy. And Portman works from the outside in. She smokes Jackie’s cigarettes and sinks her black pumps deep inside the cemetery mud. Her voice summons up Jackie’s mindful dreaminess, and unapologetically so. The myth of the Kennedy administration as Camelot endures because of her talent as a fantasist. One million people lined the route of the funeral procession mourning the absence of a beloved president. Instead of devolving into a Warholian pop artifact, the prescient Jackie offers a raw blast of electoral catharsis.
Jackie Rated R. Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.