Last night Natalie Portman showed up at the Gotham Awards, wearing a homeschooler’s home ec project, where she was a Best Actress nominee for Jackie. In something of an upset, she lost to Isabelle Huppert (Elle), because film voters have a hard time resisting Icons. The Gothams are not a strong predictor for Oscar, but this could mean a lack of momentum for Portman. She’s in the conversation, sure, but she’s not the first name on the ballot. It’s still too soon since her victory lap for Black Swan.
She’s hustling, though, which means appearances and interviews, including a cover profile in New York Magazine in which she talks up Jackie and everyone skirts around outright saying that she plays a space alien wearing a people face who happens to be the First Lady. (Peter Sarsgaard gets the closest, saying, “It’s not subtle, right?” and “The first couple of lines, you’re like, Oh, we’re going there”.) They spend a lot of the profile talking about boring profile stuff like how Portman relates to Jackie as a thirty-something and how reading about Jackie’s trip to Europe helped her crack Jackie’s public persona.
Part of the interview took place while Portman and the writer, Boris Kachka, visited an art show, and Portman admits that she liked the painting that looked like “it was blood and sh*t mixed” the best and that malls are “comforting”. Natalie Portman likes bloody sh*t paintings and malls—these are the insights that matter. Also Kachka mentions her “eminent cheekbones” and “famous and mysterious eyes” and they had brunch which included a “sorrel-pesto vegan rice bowl” by which point I was laughing out loud.
This profile is gold, it’s almost self-parody. This is the kind of puffery that happens when either 1) the subject is boring so you’re just making sh*t up to make your copy readable, or 2) you have a crush on the subject. And we get to enjoy this one because it’s not in gross Margot-Robbie-in-Vanity-Fair territory where the writer’s dried saliva is still stuck to his—or her, this happens with lady writers, too—page.
No, this is a standardly fawning puff piece seasoned with details like the fact that Natalie Portman is comforted by malls. No one has ever been comforted by a mall, they’re full of miserable people on the verge of divorce, screaming children, and teenagers. Malls were invented as a form of self-flagellation, they’re where we Americans go to punish ourselves. Portman is either talking sh*t to see what she can get printed—in which case, I kinda like her—or she’s from outer space and is failing to fully ingratiate herself with the hu-mans. That would actually explain a lot about her performance in Jackie.