Saturday 11 February 2023

Movie Review: Seberg (2019)

Genre: Biographical Drama
Director: Benedict Andrews
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Jack O'Connell, Anthony Mackie, Vince Vaughn
Running Time: 102 minutes

Synopsis: In the late 1960s, actress Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) is attracted to the black civil rights movement and starts a passionate affair with activist Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie). She also donates to the Black Panther group, prompting the FBI to intrude into her life with agents Solomon (Jack O'Connell) and Kowalski (Vince Vaughn) mounting surveillance. Seberg's marriage to Romain (Yvan Attal) crumbles and she experiences paranoia, but refuses to betray her beliefs even as the government ramps up pressure. 

What Works Well: The opening act captures the whirlwinds of an era dominated by social turmoil, sucking in an idealistic but troubled and naive actress eager to gain publicity and satisfy carnal urges. The unchecked ability of a powerful government agency to tamper with a citizen's life is portrayed with cold detachment. The set designs and outfits capture a late 1960s vibe, and Kristen Stewart owns the narrow range between sullen and angry.

What Does Not Work As Well: The second half of the film stalls, with Seberg stuck in a dark emotional space and the unformed side-stories of the FBI agents intruding into the spotlight. Precious little background is revealed about Seberg to explain her activism and mental health issues, and selective scrubbing reduces civil rights leaders to polite cocktail party fundraisers. In any event, the black power plot driver unceremoniously fades away.

Conclusion: Occasionally potent portrait of a celebrity wading into trouble, but falls short of the intended searing social commentary.

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