In another case of an interesting true story turned clunky biopic, “Seberg” is as poorly told as it is forgettable. The film explores French New Wave movie star Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) and her support of the United States civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Seberg was relentlessly targeted by the FBI because of her involvement with Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie), a member of the notorious revolutionary political organization, the Black Panthers. The young woman’s life was eventually destroyed by J. Edgar Hoover’s overreaching surveillance and harassment and the FBI’s efforts to suppress and discredit her activism. It’s a sad story with a sad ending, but I left the theater wanting more.
The performances are all very good here, especially when it comes to the two leads. Stewart is dependably compelling as Seberg, especially when her character’s life begins to unravel from understandable paranoia. Mackie is charming as a passionate radical, and their chemistry is electric. The supporting cast, including Vince Vaughn, Zazie Beetz, Jack O’Connell, and Colm Meaney, are also given their moment to shine. But the narrative is so sloppy that if not for the lead actress, there would be little reason for this movie to exist. The film comes across as a superficial glimpse of Seberg’s tumultuous life, which is all the more disappointing because Stewart turns in such a strong performance.
Director Benedict Andrews tries his best to condense this cautionary and chilling tale about how a random person can become a tragic victim of the government machine, but many scenes aimlessly drone on and on. Brevity would’ve been a key word here, but there are aspects of Seberg’s story that were left out altogether and the film still feels too long. That’s a sign of a lousy storyteller.