Natalie Portman on Why ‘Jackie’ Is More Than a Fashion Film

Natalie Portman at the AARP Movies for Grownups Screening Series in Los Angeles.

Natalie Portman at the AARP Movies for Grownups Screening Series in Los Angeles; Image: Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

We spent 2016 meticulously analyzing female political figures’ wardrobes, both in the news and on the big screen. On October 18, we lost our minds over Michelle Obama’s stunning Versace dress. On November 9, we dissected the meaning behind Hillary Clinton’s purple pantsuit. On December 2, when the buzzy, Pablo Larrain-directed biopic Jackie hit theaters, another former First Lady commanded our attention: Jackie Kennedy Onassis, by way of actress Natalie Portman.

Most of the movie follows Jackie’s movements in the days following JFK’s untimely death, a time marked by grief and iconic style moments. Jackie, who’d become known for her veneer of grace and elegance, expressed her inner turmoil through fashion. At Lyndon B. Johnson’s swearing-in, the former FLOTUS’ pink, navy-trimmed, bloodstained Chanel suit was a testament to her grief (this was hours after Kennedy’s shooting — she’d refused to change). At the late President’s funeral, his widow’s waist-length mourning veil was another statement unto itself.

However, much like Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, Jackie cannot be mistaken for a fashion ad. (Although costume designer Madeline Fontaine does nail it.) After Wednesday night’s AARP Movies for Grownups Screening of the film, Oscar frontrunners Natalie Portman and Pablo Larrain shared their views on Jackie’s true identity, and what the film’s really about.

For Larrain, Jackie and JFK’s mystery-shrouded story is a reminder to look beyond the headlines. (#Relevant.) “I think there is a very long distance in between what really happens and what we know,” the director affirmed. “Even though we did research and made a movie about it, we will never really know who Jackie was and what happened between Jackie and JFK. If you knew, you wouldn’t be making a movie about it. We are interested and made a movie because of this big mystery. I like and respect that we never know and have to imagine these things. The politics are always changing and reshaping. When we made this movie, this country was different than it is today. It’s happening and in a few weeks it will be very different. Things change so fast and this movie means something totally different than before.”

Portman, meanwhile, sees the film as an ode to the complexity of human character. “It’s the beauty of Pablo’s approach — he wasn’t trying to give an easy answer or definitive identity who this person was, nor a specific feeling or message. It’s like real life and how human beings can be a million different things at once — wise, strong, authoritative, manipulative and not completely straightforward. It’s many things at once and a complicated reality.”

In fact, Jackie’s multifaceted nature is what most fascinates Portman. “I think it’s amazing to see someone who’s been so socialized but also taught to be strong and have a survival instinct and tribal resilience,” the actress shared. “To see the mix of someone who can have cocktails at a function but survive in those difficult situations is a strange and beautiful contrast.”

Something to chew on once you’ve finished drooling over that incredible red Dior suit which, unfortunately, does not make an appearance in the sneak peek below…