Seberg: Film Review

I was really impressed by Kristen Stewart‘s performance in Seberg when I saw its premiere at the Venice Film Festival so it’s such a shame this film seems to have been forgotten about already.

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 carried out covert surveillance on her – through illegally 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 Seberg and ruin her 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.

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.

I enjoyed Seberg and found the subject fascinating, but a lot of critics were unimpressed by the straightforward, conventional, no-frills way Andrews told the story. It’s a real shame that this hasn’t been received better and has been effectively swept under the rug because I really liked it and I thought the cast were excellent, particularly Stewart. She deserved more attention for her work.

Originally seen at the 76th annual Venice Film Festival. In selected cinemas Friday 10th January 

Rating: 4/5

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

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