- The Washington Times - Friday, March 10, 2017

A pair of recently released movies on the Blu-ray format offers radically different approaches to highlighting historical figures.

Jackie (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated R, 100 minutes, 1.66:1 aspect ratio, $39.99) — Natalie Portman’s Academy Award-nominated portrayal of one of America’s most-beloved first ladies debuts on Blu-ray to give viewers a somber reminder of her bleaker days.

Director Pablo Larraín and screenwriter Noah Oppenheim’s vision, told through flashbacks while Jackie was interviewed by a reporter for “Life” magazine article back in 1963, exposes the heartbreaking world of a wife and mother after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy.

Miss Portman’s emotional and authentic performance in this slice-of-life film captures key reactions and moments of Jackie’s existence in and around the White House.

They include the famed CBS walkthrough interview in 1962, dancing with her husband at a state dinner, breaking the news of his death to her children, the preparation for the funeral and ultimately packing and leaving the residence.

A jarring recreation of the death of the president, down to the results of the fatal shot, will unsettle viewers as well as seeing Jackie wiping blood from her face and still in her famed pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat throughout the ordeal.

A supporting cast also shines as Jackie interacts with historical figures such as Lady Bird Johnson (Beth Grant), Lyndon B. Johnson (John Carroll Lynch), Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard), Jack Valenti (Max Casella) and only occasionally with President Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson).

The digital transfer highlights the film’s unusual aspect ratio (nearly square) and its grainy homage to the past that takes on an eerie historical realism, sometimes verging on a home-movie presentation.

Cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine’s unusual choices included shooting on Super 16mm film stock and mixing in the use of a tri-tube video camera to capture the CBS network-recreated scenes.

Best extras: A scant, 23-minute overview of the production focuses on interviews with Mr. Oppenheim, Mr. Larraín and Miss Portman that touch on editing, production design (including recreating the White House) and musical score. It’s too much promotional gushing for me and not enough exploration of the visual choices and story elements.

I would have preferred a supplemental historical documentary on Jackie Kennedy or even access to watching the full vintage White House tour.

Rules Don’t Apply (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 126 minutes, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, $39.99) — Warren Beatty’s 2016 box-office bomb looks for new life in home theaters with its scattershot look at Howard Hughes in 1950s Hollywood.

Directing, producing, writing and co-starring in the movie, Mr. Beatty (as the eccentric billionaire) has his hands full in this pet project, which was reportedly in the works for the last four decades.

The story finds one of Hughes’ drivers Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) falling in love with aspiring actress Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), also under contract with the billionaire, who owned RKO Studios.

Mr. Beatty attempts to deliver a screwball romantic comedy, but the laughs and love succumb to the death grip of a semi-biographical, sexual melodrama while the portrayal of Hughes spiraling into madness overshadows any fun.

The actor/director offers a caricature of the historical figure and touches on his idiosyncrasies, such as a love of frozen TV dinners, repeated phrases and banana-nut ice cream.

However, the movie never attains the dramatic heights of director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s definitive cinematic biography “The Aviator.”

An insane amount of celebrities pop in to help Mr. Beatty out of the chaos, including Annette Bening (Lucy Mabrey), Alec Baldwin (Robert Maheu), Martin Sheen (Noah Dietrich), Ed Harris (Mr. Bransford), Candice Bergen (Nadine Henly), Dabney Coleman (Raymond Holliday) and Oliver Platt (Mr. Forester).

Only Matthew Broderick as assistant Levar Mathis gets enough screen time to make an emotional impact.

Viewers will admire the costuming and sets of the period piece through a full-screen presentation, but I was more fascinated by the acting of Mr. Ehrenreich, the future Han Solo.

For a better dose of frenetic Hollyweird, try the Coen brothers’ “Hail Caesar!”

Best extras: A short, 21-minute overview that’s worth a look features interviews with many of the principal cast members talking about how they got the roles, rehearsals and appreciating the director.

Mr. Beatty, looking slightly yellowish-orange, also appears and talks about his effort, praises the cast and crew and touches on the acting process, cinematography, production design, costuming and Hughes.

It’s informative but too short and not as great, of course, as an optional commentary track with the creator would be.



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