Mica Levi's music for Under the Skin was rightfully acclaimed for its radical approach: its insistent, unsettling minimalism was the perfect backdrop for a film about a predatory alien disguised as a beautiful woman. Pairing this avant-garde sensibility with a biopic about one of the 20th's century's most famous women is an even bolder choice, and one that pays off strikingly on Jackie: Levi's score for Pablo Larrain's film about Jacqueline Kennedy in the days following President John F. Kennedy's assassination captures the disorienting strangeness of intense grief. Thanks to its fuller arrangements, Jackie is a slightly more conventional score than Under the Skin, but it's just as expressionistic. "Vanity"'s lyrical flute and strings teeter between ladylike and ominous, while "Empty White House" is lavish yet fractured, as though Levi glued the shattered pieces of a more traditional work together again and left some gaps. This intentional incompleteness defines Jackie, adding a dreamlike fragility that works especially well on the teasing, tentative "Children" and "Credits," which flickers between hope and mystery. As on her previous score, Levi sketches moods and settings with only what is necessary, and it's remarkable how many different kinds of sorrow she expresses in the process. Strings pace anxiously on "Walk to the Capitol," while the dull grief of "Graveyard"'s piano continues long after the funeral drum cadence dies out. "Intro"'s woozy glissandos -- a frequent feature of early-'60s instrumental music -- immediately convey a sinking feeling that's both hallucinatory and nauseating. Those sickly strings return on "Lee Harvey Oswald" and "Autopsy," which gives "Children"'s whimsy a darker cast and establishes an almost conversational flow between Jackie's pieces. Ultimately, Levi's score is as powerful a presence as Jackie herself, and its creativity is more appropriate than more traditional music would have been.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares