The life of an actress does not always end like a fairy tale, as sadly happened to the beautiful Jean Seberg, an American star whose darkest and most fearful period is reconstructed in this 2019 movie.
After a long career with such great masters as Otto Preminger, Jean-Luc Godard, and Claude Chabrol, she was one of the most beloved divas of the silver screen, living happily in Paris with her husband and son.
Everything changed forever when Seberg flew to America to work in some Hollywood movies, simultaneously beginning to sympathize with (and actively finance) the massive Black Panther protest movement.
At that point, the FBI targets her and organizes behind the scenes a ruthless smear campaign, in order to destroy her reputation and force her to return to Europe.
Indeed, besides the money she was giving to the black rights movement, the actress was also offering her great international notoriety and amiability, and J. Edgar Hoover himself feared that the public could further exacerbate the protests.
So a special task force placed microphones in her apartments and followed her everywhere, discovering her secret relationship with Hakim Jamal, one of the leaders of the Black Panthers, whom she had met on her previous flight to America.
Increasingly fearful and paranoid of everything and everyone, Seberg falls into a self-destructive spiral that will lead to her attempted suicide, which, although she survives, will cause the child she was carrying to die.
Fortunately, not everyone will be against her, as, for example, young Jack Solomon, a young agent skilled in audio eavesdropping, will try to protect her from the FBI and finally reveal the truth by showing her secret personnel file.
The harsh law of dark power
Ideally, everyone who loves movies should automatically love a woman and a beautiful and talented actress like Jean Seberg, but seeing the mixed reactions to this 2019 movie, I am not so sure.
I couldn’t say how historically accurate it is and the various flaws there may be in this slice of the actress’ biography, yet I defy anyone to get bored thanks to a very brisk narrative pace, especially the scenes in the secret rooms of the FBI, where we veer into the espionage thriller genre.
In those moments, the story becomes a kind of social horror, investigating the rampant occult power that ruins the lives of innocent people to protect the country’s ruling establishment and suppress the more than justified protests of citizens.
The director, Benedict Andrews, stakes everything on an excellent reconstruction of that challenging historical period, counting on a first-rate cast on which among all stands out with her luminous beauty and delicacy, a magnificent Kristen Stewart.
She may not have a remarkable resemblance to the famous actress, but she fully captures her charisma and solid/fragile personality as she falls under the weight of the FBI agents’ constant and cowardly attacks.
After the conclusion, as the caption informs us, a raid by activists stole all the records that unequivocally demonstrated the numerous wiretaps and defamations of Hoover’s boys, openly hating the rights of American citizens he considered dangerous and subversive.
I would have appreciated more insight into the American diva’s participation and political views, which, from a certain point in the story, give way to human drama without the proper context.
However, the result is a sad poem about the injustice hidden behind democracy and an auteur picture of one of the finest actresses in a period of significant social and cinematic change.
The 1960s as the dawn and end of a social era
As mentioned, the cast comprises a large (perhaps too many) ensemble of actors and actresses who bring some of the most famous faces of cinema and politics of the late 1960s to the stage.
Kristen Stewart confirms that she is one of the most admirable actresses of her generation, dominating the screen for most of the scenes she stars in.
Her charm as a petite woman is a far cry from the sexual standards that want women with long hair or voluptuous breasts. Still, she always succeeds in being exciting and provokes us with characters whose behavior we do not always understand or share.
In the role of Jean Seberg, she captures her free spirit and willingness to be more than just a pretty face on the screen: instead, she intends to enter the story and bring about real change and a positive push in people’s thinking and lives.
Equally good as his hidden shadow and spy is the solid, honest, and clean face of Jack O’Connell, a British actor who plays virtually the only voice of conscience in the entire FBI.
By his side, we have an extraordinary Vince Vaughn, completely the opposite in a negative, hateful, racist character, as seen in the chilling family dinner when he invites his colleague to his home.
Two such different men represent at the bottom the strange, ambiguous nature of the United States: a great country that unfortunately can often become a dark and fearful place, just as yet it can also be a magnificent land of opportunity capable of making any dream come true.
Finally, the convincing Anthony Mackie is Hakim Jamal, leader of the Black Panthers, of whom we unfortunately do not see much in this story except in his most intimate moments with the famous actress.