Seberg | Venice Film Festival 2019


Kristen Stewart leads Benedict Andrews' attempt at retelling the real-life story of Jean Seberg; star of the French New Wave. On her way to Los Angeles to play in a musical movie, she crosses paths with Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie) on a flight who is a member of the Black Panther Party, travelling with Malcolm X's widow. Thoroughly indulged in his charm and her keen interest in politics piqued, Jean stands in solidarity with him at the airport for a photo-op which will eventually lead to her tragic downfall.

Biopics can often suffer from a lack of focus if the writer/director loses themselves too deeply in the riches of their subject's story; of which, for Jean, there are many. Real-life isn't necessarily always as delicious as fiction and Andrews relishes in the extraordinary without bothering to deal first with the ordinary. From the get go, no real lead is established. If the film wasn't named Seberg you'd be hard pressed to locate yourself inside the narrative. The set-up is fantastically exciting while it introduces each strand of the narrative. Jean leaving for America, the radical Black Panthers taking a stand, the imminent threat of aggressive FBI agents Carl and Jack (Vince Vaughn and Jack O'Connell). For the first ten minutes, the pace is fantastic and just as it feels like it hits the ground running, it fails to take off. 

The production design creates a scintillating world for the characters to play in and yet, not one of them ever really looks like they belong there. Each actor does their best with what they are given. Stewart feels like she understands her character, even if the lack of clear direction doesn't allow us to fully understand her. She's confident and in control of what she's given and her vulnerability in the film's darkest moments are deeply sincere. Arguably the second lead of the film, O'Connell as Jack Soloman, is worth highlighting. He takes his character on a journey of cynicism to redemption, sign-posting each part of his journey subtly.

The main issue lies in the fact that Seberg decides to announce its true north far too late. It's closing in on the third act when we get hit over the head with what the film is supposed to be about; the government (and their practices) are bad. Seberg has a deeply interesting story to tell and the details of her history are so thrilling. Her journey with paranoia from the government's ill-practice is incredibly poignant for the generation we live in and it's a shame that it doesn't find its feet quick enough to truly grasp onto this concept. Her story would be a huge gift to any filmmaker and it's a shame that the embarrassment of riches is taken advantage of in a way that draws focus to its negatives over its positives.



Seberg is yet to have an official trailer or UK cinema release date as of August 30th 2019. 

Until next time

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