Seberg (2019)

Benedict Andrews directs Kristen Stewart, Anthony Mackie and Jack O’Connell in this biopic of the Sixties movie star whose private life was hounded by the FBI after she showed support to black militant groups.

So…. there are two ways to approach Seberg the film. 1. An opportunity to see Stewart – a magnetic movie star who makes daring choices of projects – in loads of lovely, chic outfits and a role that stretches her quiet, introspective persona. 2. A fumbled biopic that lacks veracity and prosecuting bite. When not focusing on Jean Seberg the movie does struggle. The depiction of the various men who exploited, abused and defamed her certainly lacks purpose. All but Vince Vaughn’s brutish fed are gifted a little too much humanity. These men either stalked her or abandoned her, they don’t deserve the strange objectivity the film affords them and it steals focus from the main event. Likewise the writers try a little to hard to disentangle Seberg from the Black Panther Party… a violent organisation even if you agree with their ultimate goals. Does anyone in 2020 care? And maybe that’s the hurdle Seberg the movie truly cannot leap. The similar Judy or Stan And Ollie appeal to a nostalgic older Grey Pound market, affording the lead mimics juicy roles and trading on the cache of still iconic figures. The persecution of Jean Seberg is a far more fascinating, heavy story to tell as she is hounded and destroyed by powers beyond her recognition. But the subject matter is no longer a household name. The tale of a forgotten star driven mad by a government agency she only became aware of when it was way too late means a lead role that lacks heroics and intercession. The biopics takes pains to change that or distract from it but then we wander too far away from the star attraction in doing so. I like Jack O’Connell, I don’t care that his fictitious spook had reservations about the lies and damage his surveillance was generating. In all honesty, I ignored a lot of Seberg’s flaws and inherent handicaps and enjoyed it the first way. Watching a luminous Stewart quietly dominate scenes of seduction and martyrdom was what I bought a ticket for and she delivered. Dial back the noise and Seberg is a solid showcase for her unique gamine talent. Like her subject matter, she is a mesmeric, risk taking star.

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