SEBERG – Review by Susan Granger

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Inspired by the life of French New Wave star Jean Seberg, best known for Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless,” this is a tepid political thriller, set in the late 1960s when she was targeted by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI because of her romantic involvement with civil rights activist Hakim Jamal.

Born in Marshalltown, Iowa, in 1938, Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) rose to stardom in 1957, when director Otto Preminger literally set her on fire while making “Saint Joan.”

But screenwriters Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel, along with Australian director Benedict Andrews, aren’t concerned with Seberg’s early life and formative years.

Instead, they focus on 1968-1971, when she left her husband, novelist Romain Gary (Yvan Attal), in Paris and met seductive Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie), a cousin of Malcom X, on a transatlantic flight.

When they disembark in Los Angeles, impulsive Seberg joins Jamal in giving the Black Power salute to the assembled press corps. Obviously smitten, she takes to heart his assertion: “If you can change one mind, you can change the world.”

Seberg passionately supports radical Jamal financially and emotionally, much to distress of his wife, Dorothy (Zazie Beetz), who refers to her as “a tourist” in the social justice movement.

Determined to embarrass Seberg when she became pregnant by Mexican student Carlos Navarra, the FBI planted a gossip column rumor that a Black Panther was the father. Two days later, when her baby died, Seberg asks for an open casket so mourners could verify that the infant was Caucasian.

The primary FBI agent assigned to spy on Seberg is conflicted, conscience-stricken Jack Solomon (Jack O’Connell), along with his overtly racist partner, Carl Kowalski (Vince Vaughn).

Victimized Jean Seberg died of an apparent suicide in 1979 at age 40.

While Kristen Stewart delivers a solid simulation of androgynous Seberg, complete with cropped blonde pixie cut, her twitchy, persecuted performance is undermined by the stumbling superficiality of the script.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Seberg” is a fervent, yet fictionalized 5. Lacking insight, it becomes banal.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.