If you recall, for a short period of time, Amanda specialized in French Spaghetti Westerns, like Justice de Cow-Boy and Les Chèvres de Provence (The Goats of Provence). While I’m not particularly proud of this period of my career, I did learn the Can-Can and became quite gifted at making Coq au Vin.
I did not become a star in France, but you know who did? Jean Seberg. The actress, had one of the most unusual careers in cinema, yes even more unusual than yours truly. She was discovered as a teenager by Otto Preminger who cast her over thousands of others in 1957’s “Saint Joan.” She did one more film with Preminger then it was off to France where she starred in Jean Luc Goddard’s new wave classic “Breathless” in 1960. She made more films in France, the excellent 1964 Hollywood drama “Lilith” with Warren Beatty, then more French films, and BIG Hollywood movies like “Paint Your Wagon” and “Airport.”
The film “Seberg” doesn’t focus as much on the star’s career as it does on the FBI investigation and smear campaign that basically ruined her life, and most likely led to her (probable) suicide in Paris at the age of 40.
Jean Seberg’s story is fascinating, tragic and certainly deserving of biopic treatment. In “Seberg,” (R) Kristen Stewart delivers a compelling and transcendent performance in a film that unfortunately doesn’t support her fine work the way it should. When we meet Jean, she’s already beloved in France, married to French author Romain Gary and mother to a young boy. On a flight back to California, Jean becomes instantly enthralled with black activist Hakim Jamal (the charismatic Anthony Mackie) and soon the two begin an affair. Her behavior and habit of writing large checks to the Black Panthers and other organizations, cause concern at the FBI who begin following her, bug her home, record her and make her increasingly and justifiably paranoid, even as she continues to behave recklessly.
The man leading the investigation is Jack (Jack O’Connell) who is new to the FBI and who eventually feels that his fellow agent (an uber-creepy Vince Vaughn) and the big boss (You know Who(ver)) might be a bit too interested in Seberg. This fictional character is supposed to be the voice of reason, but every moment spent on his story takes time away from learning about Seberg. I much rather would have seen how the actress became such an icon in France, how she met her much older husband, how her early fame affected her etc. What drove her to be so passionate about civil rights and to behave without realizing there would be consequences to her career and family?
Stewart is especially effective in the latter half of the film as her life unravels. She and Mackie work hard to make their relationship convincing and they do have terrific chemistry. Again, unfortunately Director Benedict Andrews just doesn’t spend enough time on Seberg’s career trajectory. How did she feel about doing low-budget films in Mexico and commercial fluff like “Airport”? And despite begging her husband not to take her son from her, the boy disappears for most of the movie. “Seberg” is a decent film with a standout performance by Stewart, but it leaves you with more questions than answers, and heading straight for Google.
Second Chance Cinema
Welcome to Amanda’s new feature, where I suggest a movie you might have missed that you can now watch from the comfort of home. “Jojo Rabbit” (PG-13) was nominated for multiple awards last season, and won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and Coolest Name (OK it might not have won that) for writer/director/co-star Taika Waititi. I have to admit that the trailer to this movie turned me off a bit. Was it a movie about Nazi Germany? A kids’ movie? A satire? Having seen it I can conclusively say, yes. Jojo is a 10-year-old German boy (Roman Griffin Davis) so devoted to the Nazi regime, that he has conjured up an imaginary friend, who I will call Stupid Hitler.(Waititi) Think Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” without the musical numbers. He begins to look at his world differently after he is humiliated by his fellow Hitler youth and discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home.
While there are some truly frightening and sad moments in “Jojo Rabbit,” the film is more than anything, a lesson in tolerance and acceptance. Waititi’s style reminds me of Wes Anderson’s, as you can’t really compare it to anything else. And like Anderson, he gets extraordinary performances from veterans like Johansson and Sam Rockwell and his young actors, especially Griffin Davis, who carries the film as Jojo. While the movie’s shifts in tone don’t always work, “Jojo Rabbit” is definitely worth a second chance.