Starring: Kristen Stewart, Anthony Mackie, Jack O’Connell
Director: Benedict Andrews
Running Time: 102 mins
Seberg is an American film about the true story of actress and French New Wave icon Jean Seberg, who found herself fall into a spiral of paranoia after she begins to suspect the FBI of watching her every move following a public declaration of support for the Black Panthers.
A real-life story that reveals some devastating truths, Seberg is a biographical account with a lot of drama, and without doubt one of Kristen Stewart’s best performances. However, given the scope of the film, from its setting, time period, political themes and emotional and psychological drama, Seberg is often all too simplistic for its own good, failing to really tell its story to the full.
It feels like a bit of real wasted potential, because there’s a lot about Seberg that really works. Above all, that leading performance from Kristen Stewart is fantastic. Embodying the elegance and style that we know of Jean Seberg from her roles in classic films, above all Breathless, Stewart’s portrayal of the actress is detailed, honest and all-round fantastic.
As a leading lady, she’s a magnetic central anchor for this whole film, although co-stars Anthony Mackie, Zazie Beetz and Jack O’Connell do also impress in smaller, but still emotionally resonant roles. The cast can feel a bit lop-sided at times, with a the secondary characters flowing in and out of Seberg’s life with less impact than should perhaps be the case, but all of the actors do a great job.
Meanwhile, from a biographical perspective, Seberg also impresses simply in the way it reveals a horrifying political controversy that isn’t talked about all that much. Following the actress as she becomes targeted by FBI surveillance teams for voicing support for the Black Panthers, this movie is a rightly damning portrayal of government overreach and the terrifying power of security services with clear political biases and agendas.
That’s a story ripe for thrilling political twists and turns, and gripping psychological and emotional drama from start to finish. But for some reason, Seberg doesn’t manage to take that opportunity. The film is perfectly fine as a simple biopic, but there’s surprisingly little beneath the surface, as it lacks the atmosphere of the paranoia thriller it eventually becomes.
Interestingly, there are very clear parallels between Seberg and another starring role of Kristen Stewart’s, Spencer. However, while Spencer was a devastating, disturbing haunted housed of a movie that emphasised Princess Diana’s spiral into despair with electrifying music and cinematography, Seberg doesn’t ever go that far.
While the film certainly isn’t meant to be a psychodrama of the same level as Spencer, Seberg lacks a palpable tension and atmosphere that should build as the devastating realities of its story come to light. In the end, while we see Stewart portraying Seberg’s fall into despair as she becomes aware of the surveillance operation on her, you don’t feel that despair in a particularly powerful way.
And that’s why Seberg ultimately lets itself down. It’s a strong film on the surface, with an excellent lead performance and a story that’s full of riveting drama, but it’s told in far too simplistic fashion to really get the blood pumping, struggling to foster a powerful atmosphere to hammer home its central themes. So, that’s why I’m giving Seberg a 7.3 overall.