“Who is Jean Seberg?”, many might ask. Seberg was an American actress who lived half her life in France. Her performance in Jean-Luc Godard‘s 1960 film Breathless immortalised her as an icon of French New Wave cinema. Now, Hollywood has found the perfect actress in Kristen Stewart, to portray her and the real events of the late 1960s when Hoover’s FBI targeted her because of her political and romantic involvement with civil rights activist Hakim Jamal (played by Anthony Mackie).
Seberg isn’t your typical biopic, it dramatises certain events, and thrills at the same time, while delving deeper into Seberg’s psyche and, in the end, justified paranoia. But first we get to meet a very ambitious Jean back in France, late ’60s, when she says goodbye to her husband and son, to pursue her next role in Hollywood. While traveling there, she quickly realises the civil rights party, the Black Panthers, is bigger and more outspoken than ever before, which piques her interest into joining the movement herself. She wants to make a difference, and mostly does so by donating high sums of money to the party. When the FBI starts to follow her every movement, Seberg gets highly suspicious of everyone she works and interacts with, up to the point of self destruction.
Benedict Andrews‘ (Una) film is more of a thriller that explores Seberg’s last years of her career, than a by-the-books introduction into the actress’ life. Although the actress is the main plot device, her involvement as a caucasian woman with the Black Panthers is intriguing and especially interesting when looking at it from a more human point of view. She was the kind of person who wanted to make a difference by using her skin colour as something more than just fame. Kristen Stewart (Still Alice) proves over and over again, that she can play any type of character and fully gives in to their mannerisms without holding back. Fresh off the back of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, another 1960s story set in Hollywood and also starring Margaret Qualley, Seberg not only feels unique – it looks like it.
The extraordinary architectural brilliance that goes into its production design and the sets being used to portray iconic films in which Seberg starred, are breathtaking. To breathe even more life into what’s already so vivid on screen, Jed Kurzel composes a vibrantly brilliant score that feels different from any other music he has created before. Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rachel Morrison (Black Panther) knows just how to frame Stewart’s moments, to make her look vulnerable when necessary, without ever losing the simplistic beauty of the scenes she’s in.
Not only is Stewart the one bringing her A-game, but British actor Jack O’Connell (Money Monster) as an FBI-agent who’s personal feelings get in the way, shows promising growth. Vince Vaughn (Fighting With My Family), in a more serious role, is just as loud as he usually is, but surprises in a scene around the dinner table with his family, when a sudden outburst of anger towards his daughter will for sure make you jump out of your skin. Zazie Beetz, recently seen in DC-juggernaut Joker, is once again being wasted as an undeveloped side-character, this time a housewife who’s basically just there to fill up the room. Her talent goes unnoticed film after film – it’s time for Hollywood to take notice and give her a role to shine in.
The intensity and slow build up to Jean Seberg’s mental struggles, while the FBI secretly bullies her just far enough into insanity, are portrayed in a very personal and at times gut wrenching manner. Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse‘s story does just what it’s supposed to do, and that is to make us aware of Seberg’s brilliantly overlooked and forgotten oeuvre, showing us how talented she really was and making sure she’ll forever be remembered by many generations to come.
Review – ‘Seberg’
Reviewed at Dendy Cinemas, Newtown, Jan. 14, 2020. Australian Classification: M. Running time: 102 min.
PRODUCTION: An Icon Film Distribution release of an Amazon Studios presentation in association with Encrypted Productions, Ingenious Media, Memento Films International of an Automatik, Indikate Production, Totally Commercial Films, Bradley Pilz Production. Producers: Marina Acton, Fred Berger, Kate Garwood, Stephen Hopkins, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Bradley Pilz, Alan Ritchson. Executive producers: Naima Abed, Emilie Georges, Philip W. Schaltz, Joe Shrapnel, Stephen Spence, Dan Spilo, Marsha L. Swinton, Peter Touche, Anna Waterhouse.
CREW: Directed by Benedict Andrews. Screenplay: Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse. Camera (color): Rachel Morrison (ASC). Editor: Pamela Martin. Music: Jed Kurzel.
WITH: Kristen Stewart, Jack O’Connell, Margaret Qualley, Vince Vaughn, Anthony Mackie, Zazie Beetz, Yvan Attal, Gabriel Sky, Colm Meaney, Stephen Root.