Starring Kristen Stewart, Anthony Mackie, Jack O'Connell, Vince Vaughn, Margaret Qualley, Zazie Beetz, Yvan Attal, Stephen Root, Colm Meaney
Long before the Patriot Act, the US government was involved in spying on its citizens. “Seberg” is a film about actress Jean Seberg who in the 1960s was caught in the web of COINTELPRO. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover created the surveillance program to spy on and thwart the efforts of groups that the government considered subversive. Jean Seberg later describes this time as, “a long nightmare where she didn’t know what was true and what wasn’t. Kristen Stewart gives a performance that you won’t soon forget as the radical, but naive young actress.
Though the film was a flop, Otto Preminger’s “Saint Joan” is the big break for Jean Seberg. From a small Iowa town, it is her role in the classic the film “Breathless” that would make elevate her to icon status. After years of living in Paris with her second husband, Romain Gary and their son, Jean returns to Hollywood to resume her career. Passionate about social change, she lends her support to groups like the OAAU and the Black Panther Party. Her aid to these causes attracts the attention of the FBI who has labeled these groups as subversive and begin to spy on her as well. Her extramarital affair with activist Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie) disrupts the sensibilities of several in the FBI and the Bureau begins to focus on “neutralizing” her. One agent-with-a-conscious (Jack O’Connell) watches helplessly as the FBI systematically sabotages Jean’s marriage and career.
"O’Connell’s fictitious character is completely unnecessary as more than a plot device."
Kristen Stewart captivates as the naive, spirited young Jean who transforms before our eyes into a paranoid psychotic as federal agents hound her to the breaking point. “You run around here with a handful of nails, looking for a cross to die on,” Hakim says to the still defiant Jean. The screenplay doesn’t give enough depth to Hakim and his wife or Jack and his wife to make us care. O’Connell’s fictitious character is completely unnecessary as more than a plot device. He hands Jean a copy of her FBI file in one of the final scenes. Why does he wait until after she is emotionally and professionally wrecked to confirm what, by then, she already knows?
There have been a number of Hollywood tragedies retold this year, Tarantino’s reimagined end for Sharon Tate, Rene Zellwegger’s heartbreaking portrayal of Judy Garland, and “Seberg,” are just a few. The tragic and unnecessary end of Jean Seberg is a story few know about and everyone should. Unfortunately, this film leaves as many questions unanswered as it answers. Aside from Stewart’s performance, the other highpoint is her 60s mod wardrobe assembled by costume designer Michael Wilkinson. It’s just not enough.
Real-life intrigue, exceptional costumes and stellar performance by Stewart not enough.