Are you sick of Natalie Portman yet? Neither are we. And neither is the movie business, from the roll she’s been on lately.
First there was that (dare I say it?) seminal interview in the Hollywood Reporter in which she put to rest to any conventional wisdom about actors being unable to speak intelligently about foreign affairs. Then there was the news that she’s set to star in a film about the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, AKA “The Notorious RBG,” and then (because honestly, if it were just the first two things—dayenu) she is making her directorial debut at Cannes Film Festival with A Tale of Love and Darkness, a film based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by the legendary Israeli man of letters, Amos Oz. (In addition to directing duties, Portman also plays the author’s mother, Fania.) All of which proves that Portman is completely awesome, and also, nothing you ever do will ever be good enough for your mother again. (All that, and somehow she still has a baby! What are you doing that’s so important?)
And now, from Cannes—where she just made a giant splash on the red carpet with the kind of tasteful, pared-down silhouette that makes all those Eurotrash high-fashion wannabes look like something your grandma used to hide the extra roll of toilet paper in the guest bathroom—comes more amazing, if markedly less Hebraic, Portman news: she will be playing the leading role in a new biopic about the most tasteful and pared-down silhouette of them all: Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis herself. I know. Take a breath.
Many actresses have portrayed Jackie Kennedy, of course, like Katie Holmes and Minka Kelly. And let’s not forget Touched By An Angel’s Roma Downey in the classic 1991 NBC miniseries A Woman Named Jackie, which starred a pre-tearful-admission-of-felony-child-molestation Stephen Collins as the dashing JFK. (The main thing I remember is Roma Downey confronting her husband in hushed tones, with a pair of soiled black lace panties dangling from her perfectly manicured fingers: “I found these. They aren’t mine. Are they…Marilyn’s?”) But never has our most glamorous and mythologized First Lady received a biographical treatment with so classy an imprimatur: in addition to Portman, the film will be produced by none other than Darren Aronofsky, who helmed her Academy Award-winning performance in Black Swan.
Of course, this being the Internet age where everyone has more opinions than they do any particular bodily orifice (this is a family friendly website, but you know what I mean), some people aren’t happy about this, most notably Jezebel, which ran a post today called, titled “Which Historical Figure Will Natalie Portman Ruin Next?”
Because apparently the gamine, balletomane, Ivy-League educated Natalie Portman is as poor a choice to play the gamine, balletomane, Seven-Sisters educated First lady as she is to play the Ivy-League educated, erudite, outspokenly Jewish Ruth Bader Ginsburg?
The Jezebel blogger writes, “Sorta makes one yearn for the quiet days when Portman was hanging with her hottie dancer husband and recovering from gestating both her first Oscar and a child, doesn’t it?”
Whatever. I don’t know what any of that’s about, except I just get really, really tired of the blogosphere sometimes. Personally, I couldn’t be more thrilled with the choice of both star and director. Not just because I’m a fan of both, and particularly their work together, or because the enigmatic, frequently misunderstood/underestimated Jackie (who, as her accomplishments in the realms of culture, was far more than a pretty face who knew exactly how to write a gracious thank you note) is long overdue for an in-depth interrogation of both her life and her symbolic status in the American female consciousness.
I’m thrilled because of Kennedy’s symbolic status in the American class consciousness as the epitome of classy, East Coast, old money position and style. Rightly or wrongly, Jackie has become the ultimate embodiment of the club that wouldn’t have you as a member, and the fact that she’s being brought to life by two people who the club really wouldn’t have is really pretty great. Old Joe Kennedy must be spinning in his grave.