‘Seberg’ Movie Review: Kristen Stewart Paints a Breathless Madness
Jean Seberg is not a household name. She may have been one in the ’60s and she may have become one for the ages had the FBI not sabotaged her life, let alone compromised her career. Seberg tells the story, very sympathetic to Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart)’s point of view.
It is a valuable reminder of history and just how difficult it is for one person to stand up for what she believes in. You can see it on Amazon Prime now.
Jean Seberg tries to help the Black Panthers
Seberg is on her way back to Hollywood after having success in European films. She’s reading the script to Paint Your Wagon on the plane. Despite her complaints, she will end up doing it. For superfans, there’s a provocative scene later on where she runs Paint Your Wagon lines with lover.
On the plane she meets Black Panther Haki Jamal (Anthony Mackie) and poses for a photo opp with the Panthers, raising her fist with them. This gets her on the FBI’s radar. They’re investigating the Panthers and mark Seberg as target.
Jean Seberg doesn’t stand a chance against the FBI
She wants to be part of social change, and she’s on the right side as history will show, but she doesn’t quite know what she’s up against. The FBI surveillance knows how to hurt her. They hurt the people she cares about so they turn her away to protect themselves.
Seberg would never think of something as vile as the sexual caricature the FBI spreads, but it’s their job to know exactly what tactic will cause the most damage. You’d hope they turn those tactics against enemies of the country, but if they believe Seberg is an enemy, they become relentless: bugging her, sneaking into her apartment, trying to get more on her… all to stop her from raising awareness for a social cause.
The Black Panthers were a threat. They caused trouble for the establishment to raise awareness for Civil Rights, and it worked. So the FBI went after their most prominent allies. If the FBI wants to destroy you, they have the resources. You don’t want to make them an enemy.
Kristen Stewart captures the dual life of an actor/activist
Stewart, of course, has enough experience playing conflicted characters that she honors Seberg with her layered performance. The FBI makes her paranoid, because she’s not wrong. Thre could be a bug anywhere, but the FBI knows that simply raising her suspicion makes her look compromised. It compromises her work on the set too.
Seberg captures the glamour of her public life, the gorgeous wardrobe she wears and the lavish settings she visits. That, however, is the burden she has to keep up while she’s going through something so devastating. Stewart can certainly nail the intensity of Seberg’s stress, and the veneer she has to project gets thinner and thinner.
Stewart must relate on some level. She’s not political but the press was really invasive during twilight and her coming out. Fans may have meant well but they could have also been needy. It’s also not lost on the film that Seberg’s first big role was Joan of Arc, and she herself ends up persecuted for fighting for change.
And yet through the intensity of Seberg’s struggle, she’s still wearing incredible wardrobe. It would be distracting if it weren’t so clearly relevant to contrast her lifestyle with her emotional life. Since it is, Seberg captures the storm between the highs and lows of her experience in America in the 1960s.