Stewart shines as Seberg, but the biopic is a missed opportunity.
The recent Academy Awards have given us no surprises of the winners. “Parasite” became a milestone for being the first international film to win the Best Picture award, Renee Zellweger won for her performance as Judy Garland in “Judy,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” won two for its production design and Brad Pitt’s supporting role, and Elton John and Bernie Taupin both won for their “Rocketman” song “I’m Gonna Love Me Again.”
These films are haikus to movies and celebrities, and represent the very best of the Hollywood world. Granted, it’s full of smog, traffic, earthquakes, and greed, but outside that, we’re given those movies to help remind us of why classics are classics.
Now, we’re given “Seberg,” the biography of Jean Seberg (1938-1979), whom Kristen Stewart portrays furiously and grippingly. But as much as I admired her performance, the movie isn’t as glamorous or remarkable as it should have been. It feels more like a summary than an actual biography.
For those of you in the next generation unfamiliar with her, Seberg was an American actress who lived in France, was nominated a Golden Globe for her performance in “Lilith,” showed her support for the Black Panther Party, and had an affair with activist Hakim Jamal (an associate of Malcolm X). That’s when she ended up as one of the targets of the FBI COINTELPRO project. I, too, wasn’t familiar with her until I watched the movie “Seberg.”
The cast also features Anthony Mackie as Hakim Jamal; Zazie Beatz as Jamal’s wife, who finds out about their affair; Jack O’Connell and Vince Vaughn as the FBI agents tracking them down; Margaret Qualley (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) as the young agent’s (O’Connell) wife, who has tells him to get out of the game; Yvan Attal as Seberg’s husband Romain Gary; and Stephen Root (popping in more cameo roles when you least expect them like “Bombshell” or “Get Out”) as her agent.
The supporting performances from Mackie and O’Connell are both likable, but they’re not really given their basis or narrative. They seem like they’re supposed to be obligatory, instead of important, and that’s a bit slipshod.
The narrative (directed by Benedict Andrews and written by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse) feels weak, and barely left me interested in the French New Wave icon’s story involving the Black Panther Party and the FBI. It should have delved deeper into that, instead of just relying on the lead role to save the show. It ends up being lackluster.
At this point, Stewart is better in artisan films like “Certain Women” and “Personal Shopper” than she is in mass-market flicks like “Charlie’s Angels” and “Underwater.” And she’s exceptional in “Seberg,” if only I could say the same thing for the overall experience.