What is it, exactly, with all of this late-‘60s revivalism? Have the eighties played out already? Perhaps it’s a nostalgic symptom of turning into the next terrifyingly unsure decade – has America been so insecure in itself since Easy Riders, Woodstock and the Manson murders? – but we’ve become fascinated with a vision of America on the brink of sociocultural meltdown. Quite uniquely for this trend, Seberg’s lens is narrowed to the tragic true story of the eponymous Jean Seberg: a Hollywood starlet moved to act against America’s latent racism, and whose life was all but ended by the FBI’s Gestapo-esque CONINTELPRO as a result.
Seberg is most potent when it restricts its story to the woman herself. Kristen Stewart puts in a stalwart performance, emanating the star’s assured confidence and political aptitude. Her sensuous relationship with Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie), cousin of the late Malcolm X and high-profile leader within the Black Power movement, posits the fact that her political beliefs were not simply vacuous virtue (or, dare I say, bourgeois posturing – “Let’s help the little guy!”).
Only to the slight periphery of this lies Seberg’s fundamental flaw: it’s far too flabby, with a cast list which could happily scratch off a name or two (particularly Vince Vaughn’s – his racist, pig-headed FBI agent Carl Kowalski is a redundant antagonist, not justified by any argument for historical accuracy). The cookie-cutter script doesn’t help, either; like mapping out the Big Dipper from the starlit sky, you could sketch the exact shape of Seberg from its glowing narrative beats.
There’s a great biopic in there somewhere, buoyed by Stewart’s confident performance (has she put much of a foot wrong since 2012’s K-11?); but the film’s unfortunate flabbiness and unimaginative script hold it at a static note of “fine”. Quite a shame.
CAST: Kristen Stewart, Anthony Mackie, Vince Vaughn
DIRECTOR: Benedict Andrews
WRITERS: Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse
SYNOPSIS: Inspired by true events, the film tells the story of Breathless star and darling of the French New Wave, Jean Seberg, who in the late 1960s was targeted by the illegal FBI surveillance program COINTELPRO.
[TRAILER COMING SOON]