Benedict Andrews‘ biographical drama on actress Jean Seberg premiered at the 76th Venice Film Festival Friday. “Seberg”‘ stars Kristen Stewart as the French New Wave starlet who was persecuted by J Edgar Hoover’s FBI during the 1960s.
“Seberg” premieres in Venice exactly 40 years after the death of the titular actress, a case that was deemed a probable suicide. The film was previously titled, “Against All Enemies,” and follows Seberg’s battle with the FBI, who targeted the “Breathless” actress for her involvement and contribution to the Black Power movement. Seberg was also romantically connected to civil rights activist Hakim Jamal, played by Anthony Mackie. The film also stars Stephen Root, Vince Vaughn, Zazie Beetz, Jack O’Connell and Margaret Qualley.
In a Q&A with Deadline’s Nancy Tartaglione, Stewart engaged with Seberg’s real life passion and cause, explaining that “they weren’t digestible in the country that she was living in, they weren’t something that people wanted to hear both creatively and politically.” Stewart went on to say:
I think this oppressive energy is so ironically the foundation of our politics now. I mean, what was happening then is happening now and it’s gonna continue to happen. I mean, this is America and a bunch of dudes in power are never going to be cool with you taking it away — I don’t think they really care who they bowl over to maintain that.
For The Hollywood Reporter, Stephanie Zacharek reviews the film, citing Stewart’s performance as “off the charts, though that’s hardly a surprise.” She writes:
“Seberg isn’t strictly a biopic; it’s a blunt portrait of a woman, a political activist as well as a movie star, whose life was kicked into a downward spiral by a devious government organization. The picture is potent and engaging; even its fictionalized elements ring with the spirit of truth.
…Solomon approaches Seberg in a Parisian bar, circa the early 1970s, presenting her with her FBI file. She looks at it with anger, with curiosity—and then she passes it back to him. This is the movie’s way of granting Seberg some of the dignity she was denied in real life.”
Coverage from the press conference was followed via Twitter, as well as first reactions from attendees:
#BiennaleCinema2019 #Venezia76 #Seberg #KristenStewart: “I only knew #JeanSeberg as a sort of image. I hadn’t realised all the hunger behind her eyes. The system turned against her but she sacrificed herself for the people she loved.” pic.twitter.com/IUlK6iybAD
— Biennale di Venezia (@la_Biennale) August 30, 2019
#Seberg is a bit wobbly with its execution but is salvaged by a tour de force performance from Kristen Stewart as actress Jean Seberg.
The film never really settles on what it wants to be or what’s its trying to say. Plus the ending left me totally befuddled 🤨🤔#Venezia76 pic.twitter.com/wrAjDB7Myp
— Luke @ Venice & TIFF 🎥 (@LukeHearfield) August 30, 2019
#Venezia76 #Seberg Burnt yellow portrait of an icon. KStew is much bigger than the movie, she cracks it like a wind. Fierce, strong, broken. Don't be a cop who bugs and wires without getting it. Give yourself to this American breeze.
— Lorenzo Ciorcalo (@rotovisor) August 30, 2019
Oh boy. Seberg is pretty bad. An extremely glossy Hollywood take on this story of Jean Seberg being ruined by the FBI, with all the usual cliches galore. Tries to say so much, ends up all over the place. Score doesn't fit. Worst of all it's just so so so cheesy throughout.
— Alex Billington @ Venice (@firstshowing) August 30, 2019
“Seberg” is produced by Automatik Entertainment, Phreaker Films and Bradly Pilz Productions. It will have its North American premiere at Toronto International Film Festival September 8. Amazon Studios will be distributing the biopic in theaters with a release date unknown.