by Coop Cooper
Two more 2017 Academy Award contenders…
“Jackie” – The story follows Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Natalie Portman) during the hours, days and weeks after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. It also flashes back to her infamous, televised ‘White House tour’ interview and contrasts that moment with her first interview after the assassination. The film depicts Jackie as a unwitting cultural icon who suddenly finds herself in the difficult position of showing strength in front of the public during her greatest point of grief.
Portman gives one the most over-the-top – and slightly phony – performances I’ve ever seen her attempt. It seemed like a slam-dunk role for her talents and the scenes directly after the assassination actually give her the most to work with, but her performance dissolves into caricature when she reverts back to the stereotypical ‘Jackie’ persona. It’s strange how poorly Jackie herself comes across in the film, almost as if she was overwhelmed and intellectually unprepared for her role as First Lady. It was difficult to tell if Portman was making that perception worse, but it may have also been a flaw in the writing. She also failed to nail the difficult accent, which didn’t help the matter.
The décor and costumes look about as authentic as possible and Peter Skarsgard, as Bobby Kennedy, delivers at least one good grieving monologue worthy of note. Other than these things and the impressive recreation of historical moments, “Jackie” is a bore and Portman’s performance felt like she was constantly struggling not to overact. This is the type of film that gives the term ‘Oscar bait’ a negative connotation to the general public.
“Jackie” is nominated for “Best Actress” (Natalie Portman), “Costume Design” and “Original Score”.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
“Toni Erdmann” – This oddball German film follows an elderly prankster (Peter Simonischek) who becomes concerned when he detects that his distant, workaholic daughter, Ines (Sandra Huller), has become disconnected and depressed. He surprises her at her job at the German embassy in Bucharest and begins showing up at her professional functions in a goofy disguise, claiming to be a corporate life coach named Toni Erdmann. Livid, Ines tries to play along for fear of her career, but can’t seem to ignore the fact that her bizarre father tends to both baffle and mesmerize others. As “Toni” invades further into her life, Ines finds herself beginning to use her father’s own tactics to improve her relationships with others.
This “Best Foreign Film” nominee could have been brilliant if it weren’t so long, slow and if the father had been played by an chameleon-like actor who could easily breeze between one identity to the next. As I watched, I kept trying to imagine an actor like Jim Carrey or Johnny Depp playing this role and how fun it would be to see them try it. As it stands, it’s a cold German film with subdued acting and muted colors. I can see why it was nominated for an Oscar, but it is probably too European for most American viewers to appreciate. Where it excels best is in its weirdness. There are a few (but not enough) very uncomfortable scenes including a ‘naked party’ which is so weird and absurd that it makes the film memorable.
While I can’t yet compare it to the other “Best Foreign Film” nominees, I can imagine there might be a better candidate than “Toni Erdmann”, but it shows so much potential as an American remake, I can’t deny its charm.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars