(press play before you start reading)
Kristen Stewart is unquestionable an immensely talented actress, which is very fortunate for the filmmakers of SEBERG as she single-handedly has to make something out of their rather pedestrian biopic.
This movie starts in 1968 as Seberg leaves Paris in the middle of the Sorbonne Riots to head back to the US to resurrect her Hollywood career. Also on the same flight to Los Angeles is Black Power activist Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie) and as she is attracted to his politics (and the man) she poses with him for all the awaiting media after they de-plane. This brings her to the attention of the FBI who are watching every single move of Jamal in the hope of destabilizing his campaign of civil unrest.
Seberg’s life as a wealthy movie star about to film a Western Musical is so far removed from Jamal and the Black Panthers, but the timing seems somehow perfect for both of them. The Black Panthers are beginning to make an impact on their community much to disdain of the Establishment and urgently need funding, and Seberg in a troubled marriage is looking for a bigger purpose in her life, plus she has the money.
When the FBI decide that Seberg is now also a risk to society they bug her house and keep her under complete surveillance. Most of this falls to Jack Solomon (Jack O’Connell) a new eager whizz recruit who has just been transferred to L.A. It is Solomon that manages to provide his masters at the Agency with what they what, but when eventually he is ordered to get involved in their dirty tactics to damage Seberg’s reputation, he has second thoughts.
The script by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse fails to recognise Seberg’s achievement as very serious committed actress and they just paint her as a neurotic movie star who should be grateful for her more mainstream roles. That’s also reflected in Michael Wilkinson’s stunning costumes which make Stewart look nothing like a potential revolutionary and much more like a real Hollywood queen.
Seberg is portrayed as a neurotic meddling and very naive woman who wears her social conscience on her sleeve, and that she is one of the bad guys. With the single exception of Solomon, everyone else fails to accept the fact that the FBI is determined to break Seberg at any cost, and that just doesn’t sit right with him.
Part of that is the fact that so much of the story simply skims over very important issues that are affecting Seberg like the premature birth and death of her infant daughter, her relationship with her son or even the reasons why her marriage is falling apart. It leaves us in confusion to understand some of her actions and thought processes.
The movie finishes before we find out that a few years later Seberg is found dead aged just 40 years old, and it is assumed she took her own life. Six days after the discovery of Seberg’s body, the FBI released documents under the Freedom of Information Act admitting the defamation of Seberg while making statements attempting to distance themselves from practices of the Hoover era.
There had been several attempts to film Serberg’s story before now …… one by Jodie Foster ….. and even a stage Musical by Marvin Hamlisch ….. but the definitive version still hasn’t been made yet …. and this certainly is not it.