Tag Archives: Peter Sarsgaard

O, Jackie

Natalie Portman drills deep to the dark, complex core of ‘Jackie’

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Jackie
Starring Natalie Portman, Billy Cruddup, Peter Sarsgaard and Greta Gerwig
Directed by Pablo Larraín
R
In theaters Dec. 2, 2016

More than 50 actresses have portrayed Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis on TV and in the movies, including Jacqueline Bissett, Blair Brown, Katie Holmes, Gennifer Goodwin, Roma Downey, Minka Kelly and Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live.

But everyone else might as well just put away the pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat, because now Natalie Portman owns the role.

In the simply titled Jackie, the Oscar-winning actress delivers a powerful, awards-worthy performance as the former first lady, focused on the days after the assassination of her husband, John F. Kennedy, in November 1963. The movie unfolds through the framing device of Jackie’s flashback recollections, as told to a Life magazine reporter (Billy Cruddup) interviewing her for an exclusive after the event, during which she reminds him that “people like to believe in fairy tales.”

image-31f4e978-7411-4519-9780-0c990636519eThe movie dives into the mind of the grieving Jackie as she deals with the emotional fallout of the loss of her husband, his legacy, and of her place in a world—now without him—as a Kennedy-in-law. It’s not a conventional biography, or even a historical drama. It’s deeper and darker than that, and Portman bores down to the complex, most challenging parts of its core.

Portman anchors every scene, surrounded by an exceptional supporting cast. Peter Sarsgaard plays Bobby Kennedy, her grieving brother-in-law. Greta Gerwig is Nancy Tuckerman, Jackie’s loyal White House social secretary. John Carroll Lynch does a fine job as Texan Vice President Lyndon Johnson, swept into the Oval Office after the tragic campaign motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Beth Grant is his wife, Ladybird.

John Hurt, as a priest at a cemetery, gets to the heart of the movie, and Jackie, in a conversation during which she reveals her fears and anxieties.

Danish actor Caspar Phillipson plays JFK, and he’s well cast, but you don’t see very much of him. This is Portman’s film, and the camera locks onto her like it doesn’t want to let her go.

image-14ab5e32-76ca-4363-b8d8-01408dbdf553The movie does a terrific job of recreating scenes that live in history from newspaper photos and newsreels, such as the swearing in of President Johnson aboard Air Force One and Kennedy’s funeral. Moments of Jackie alone, removing her bloodied pantyhose, looking for Kennedy’s burial site in the rain and mud at Arlington, smoking cigarettes she didn’t want the public to see, or simply wandering around her empty bedroom, alone, are haunting.

The “fairy tale” that Jackie lived at the White House, the movie suggests, was like the one depicted in the legends of King Arthur and his legendary castle, Camelot—noble, idealistic and romantic, laden with symbolism, and potent with the stuff of myth. In one moving and melancholy scene, Jackie tries on several outfits—and gets progressively more inebriated—while the iconic theme from the classic Broadway musical Camelot plays on her stereo.

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“Don’t let it be forgot,” she tells her interviewer, “that for one brief, shining moment, there was a Camelot.” She pauses before adding, “There won’t be another Camelot.”

And there won’t be another Jackie like Natalie Portman, at least anytime soon.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Ride ‘Em Cowboy

‘Magnificent Seven’ brings western past into focus with Hollywood present

Vincent D'Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Byung-hun Lee

Meet the new ‘Magnificent Seven’: Vincent D’Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Byung-hun Lee

The Magnificent Seven
Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard & Haley Bennett
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
PG-13

The western pretty much trotted into the sunset decades ago, but every once in a while something gallops out of Hollywood that reminds us just what a big deal cowboys used to be.

And the cowboy, as depicted and polished by Hollywood and pop culture, remains one of America’s most potent mythic figures—a rugged, rustic, stoic, individualistic, self-sacrificing hero, good with a gun and sometimes even better with women.

The Magnificent Seven gets a lot of its retro dust honestly. For starters, it’s a remake of a remake: The original Seven, in 1960, was an all-star Americanized version of a 1954 Japanese classic, Seven Samurai, in which a samurai warrior and six others band together to defend a village from marauding bandits.

Director Antoine Fuqua certainly knows how to make an action-packed project click into place, with clear-cut lines between good guys and bad guys, a lofty morality-lesson overlay and a dark undertow of bloody revenge.

Denzel Washington;Chris Pratt

Denzel Washington plays bounty hunter Sam Chisholm.

The star here is clearly Denzel Washington—his collaboration with Fuqua in Training Day brought him an Oscar, and the two also worked together in The Equalizer. He plays sure-shot bounty hunter Sam Chisholm, who comes to the aid of a small frontier town under the rule of ruthless robber baron Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his murderous cutthroat bodyguards. Bogue has poisoned the water supply, set fire to the church, enslaved the local men to work in his gold mine and demanded that the residents either sell out, move out—or else.

Beseeched by a firebrand widow (Haley Bennett) whose husband was killed by Bogue’s thugs, Chisholm—whose very name evokes the title of a 1970 John Wayne western, Chisum—assembles a group to help reclaim the town.

The multinational, cross-cultural rainbow coalition looks awesome onscreen, but it feels more like an Old West Suicide Squad—or a colorful team of Avengers assembled by way of High Noon—much more than an organic group of renegades and rogues, despite all the grime, grit, dirt, sweat, stubble and scruff.

Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt is heavy-drinking, wisecracking Josh Faraday, whose skill with cards helps him in more ways than one. Ethan Hawke’s erudite former Confederate sharpshooter is haunted by ghosts of his wartime past. His Chinese partner (Byung-hun Lee) can do lethal wonders with any type of blade or firearm.

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is a hunky Mexican outlaw whose vicious skillset makes him a valuable member of the seven. A young renegade Comanche (Martin Sensmeier) likes the gallant cause and wants to come aboard. Vincent D’Onofrio’s big, Bible-quoting mountain man is a holy terror—and an audience favorite.

Bullets fly, bodies fall, blood flows, hooves thunder, jokey banter gets bantered, dynamite goes ka-boom. There’s a particularly twisty twist at the end that you won’t see coming. You may catch—or imagine—wispy glimpses of the ghosts of Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and other western icons looming and lurking around the edges of some of the scenes.

With a winning combo of gunpowder and star power, The Magnificent Seven brings the cowboy past into focus with the Hollywood present. If you like your popcorn sprinkled with old-fashioned, good-guy gusto, it’s as rip-roaring a time that’s come along on horseback in years.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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