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Thursday 23 January 2020

At the Movies: Seberg

Seberg (15A, 102mins) ***


Little known in her native America, a big cheese in France, Jean Seberg became the elfin muse of nouvelle vague giants like Godard and Chabrol in the early 1960s. Beautiful in a pale and luminous sort of way, she was plagued by bad luck and depression, and was found dead in her car at the age of just 40, having apparently committed suicide.

Her life was full of incident, including many adventures in Paris and a brush with death at 17, when she was badly burnt while strapped to a stake in Otto Preminger's Saint Joan. But in this film, director Benedict Andrews and his writers have chosen to focus on Seberg's battles with the FBI. In 1968, Jean (Kristen Stewart) is on her way back to America to star alongside Clint Eastwood in Paint Your Wagon when she meets Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie), a radical black leader with links to Malcolm X and the Black Panthers.

Jean, though married, is intrigued and in LA she seeks Jamal out in Compton and the two begin an affair. Good news for the FBI, who decide Seberg is a person of interest and order two agents (Jack O'Connell, Vince Vaughn) to bug her home and follow her. These intrusions will cause untold damage to Jean and all around her.

Stewart is a charismatic actor and well cast as the volatile and vulnerable Seberg, who more often than not is her own worst enemy. But a broader view of Jean's life might have made for a more satisfying film and though Seberg has its moments, her insertion at the centre of an espionage thriller feels at times a little forced.

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