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Kristen Stewart Can’t Help “Seberg” Rise To Its Potential

Despite being years removed from the Twilight franchise, having spent the majority of her career at this point in independent cinema, Kristen Stewart still is lumped in as someone who’s just a part of the Hollywood machine. That ignores a whole host of tremendous performances by Stewart, but the bad rap remains. Today, Stewart has another indie would be awards hopeful to share in the biopic Seberg. She is as good as she’s ever been here, but the film itself is not on her level. It’s a shame too, since in better hands, she’d be an Oscar nominee this year in Best Actress, I can all but assure you of that much.

The movie is a biopic, as previously mentioned, looking at and taking inspiration from a seminal moment in the life of Jean Seberg (Stewart). Set in the late 1960’s, Seberg is an actress, darling of the French New Wave, and the star of Breathless. At the height of her fame, it began to all come crashing down, starting when she was targeted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its director J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI, led by agents Jack Solomon (Jack O’Connell) and Carl Kowalski (Vince Vaughn), start looking into her due to her activism and vocal support for the civil rights movement. When Seberg begins to get romantically involved with Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie), the bureau begins to up their investigation. As the FBI torments her, Seberg begins to lose her grip on reality, rightly convinced that she’s being watched at all turns. Cinephiles know what eventually, and tragically, led to her untimely end. Benedict Andrews directs a screenplay by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse. Rounding out the cast are Yvan Attal, Zazie Beetz, Colm Meaney, Stephen Root, Margaret Qualley, Gabriel Sky, and more. Jed Kurzel composed the score, while the cinematography is by Rachel Morrison.

Kristen Stewart is phenomenal here, though ultimately not able to save the flick. She finds the rebellious spirit in Jean Seberg, as well as the paranoia that ultimately led to her death. Stewart quickly disappears into the role, anchoring it at all turns. Unfortunately, while the direction and visuals evoke the time pretty seamlessly, the story itself stays completely on the surface. The script never explores any of the interesting angles that Seberg’s life contained. The noir and thriller aspects wind up taking charge, torpedoing a promising premise. You’re left wondering what might have been and disappointed with what we got instead.

Had Seberg been just a little bit better, Stewart would be weeks away from becoming an Academy Award nominee. With a wide open Best Actress race, nomination wise at least, she could have immediately jumped into the middle of the Oscar contest. She’s that good. However, nothing else here in the movie is, so it’s a moot point. While something like Judy is simply good enough to get its star Renee Zellweger to the forefront of the race, Seberg is unable to do the same for Stewart, destining her to be snubbed once again.

Starting today, Stewart’s many fans can see her take on a cinematic icon in Seberg, opening in limited release. Her fanbase will see one of her finest turns, playing the late Jean Seberg, but it’s in service of a frustratingly basic film. This is a huge missed opportunity, especially since it could have been one of Amazon Studios’ biggest awards pushes this year. Instead, it’ll be discarded all too quickly, condemning this performance to relative obscurity in 2019. Alas. Stewart deserves better, but then again, we as an audience deserve better than what Seberg provides, especially considering the acting on display. What could have been…

Seberg is in select theaters now.

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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