Seberg: Venice Film Review

Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

Kristen Stewart is having a really great run at the moment, isn’t she? Well, I can assure this continues with Seberg, in which she is on fine form once again.

In Benedict Andrews’ biographical drama, Stewart plays real-life American actress Jean Seberg, who was best known for starring in Jean-Luc Godard‘s Breathless. In the late 1960s, she became the target of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, in which they would illegally carry out covert surveillance on her – through tapping her phones and bugging her homes – because of her regular donations to the Black Panther Party and her affair with activist Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie). Once they had gained personal information, the FBI agents – led here by Carl Kowalski (Vince Vaughn) and Jack Solomon (Jack O’Connell) – would leak it or fabricate a more scandalous version of it to the press to discredit and ruin Seberg’s reputation.

I didn’t know anything about Seberg or the COINTELPRO program and I was frankly shocked. I knew covertly bugging phones (and more) was a done thing but spreading lies about her too?! That was so wrong. Also, she didn’t do anything to deserve it – she simply slept with a black man, gave him and his wife Dorothy (Zazie Beetz) money to fund their education program and made donations to the Panthers. She wanted to help them make life better for African-Americans and the FBI ruined her life because of it. Between 1968 and 1971, the timeline of the film, Seberg gradually becomes paranoid and her mental health deteriorates.

Andrews’ film is told in a very straightforward, no-frills way, but that was fine for me because the real-life story is engrossing enough.  I found the source material truly fascinating and the cast was excellent.

Stewart’s Seberg starts out as this young famous actress simply wanting to help the cause but she slowly loses her grip on reality and spirals out of control. These agents interfere with her life and distribute information nobody else would know, and she eventually figures out that she’s being spied on and that makes her paranoid. Stewart captures her mental decline really well. O’Connell achieves some sympathy as the agent who realises what they’re doing is wrong and tries to make it right, Margaret Qualley was a nice addition as Jack’s wife, while Mackie and Beetz gave sensitive, considered performances. Vaughn was exactly as bullheaded as you would expect him to be.

Seberg sheds light on a fascinating story and the cast is brilliant all round so I would definitely recommend.

Seberg is screening out of competition at the 76th annual Venice Film Festival. Its general release date is not yet known

Rating: 4/5

SEE ALSO: Pictures of Kristen Stewart, Anthony Mackie, Margaret Qualley and co. as they promote Seberg 

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