Well folks, it’s the home stretch – the end of the calendar year, and thus the end of awards eligibility season, so studios and indie distributors alike are bringing out their big guns. This month’s art-house titles of note include sensations from the Telluride, Toronto, New York, and Venice film festivals (along with a few stragglers from Sundance, Cannes, and SXSW), with showcase performances by marquee names and gifted filmmakers doing their best stuff. These are some of the year’s best movies, in other words, so let’s see what we’ve got.
Release date: Out now
Director: Pablo Larraín
Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig
When this snapshot sketch of Jacqueline Kennedy first flashes back to the assassination of her husband, director Larraín (No) doesn’t show us the Zapruder film or Dealey Plaza or any of the familiar iconography. Instead, we see an uncomfortably tight close-up of her eyes as she wipes her husband’s blood from her face, sobbing. That image, and the approach that leads to it, says much about this fascinating film, which takes place in the week or so following that earth-shattering event, but unspools like a fever dream, intercutting and interlocking her private and public moments with scorching intensity. And that description goes double for Portman’s starring turn, which sees her as an enigma, a performer, and a figure of unimaginable pain, all at once. It’s not the biopic you might expect, but it’s better than any we could hope for.