By S. Jhoanna Robledo,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Flat James Dean biopic has swearing, some nudity.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Persistence can pay off.
Positive Role Models
Young James Dean is portrayed as earnest and reluctant to embrace the life of a soon-to-be star. He wants little to do with the studio apparatus, preferring instead to spend time in the small town where he grew up, where his life seems more wholesome. Dennis is extremely persistent in his mission to convince Dean to pose for a series of photographs. He finally gets what he wants after winning over the budding star.
Violence & Scariness
A studio executive makes casual threats to a young actor, warning him to toe the company line or face unpleasant consequences.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A brief sex scene shows a drunken couple having sex in a bar bathroom; thrusting shown, but no body parts are visible. In another scene, two lovers relax in bed, nude; the woman's breasts are visible.
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Occasional swearing includes "s--t," "f--k," and "screw."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Frequent smoking throughout (accurate for the era). Drinking at parties and bars; in one scene, some characters get quite drunk. One sequence shows people popping uppers.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Life takes a look at the early career of actor James Dean (Dane DeHaan) and his relationship with Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson), a photographer for Life magazine who captured some of the most iconic images of the budding star. Expect plenty of smoking, as was common during the 1950s, and a few scenes show people drinking heavily and popping pills. There's some moderate swearing (including "s--t" and "f--k"), a brief sex scene in a bar bathroom (no nudity), and one longer scene of a couple in bed that shows a woman's breasts.
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Based on 2 parent reviews
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LIFE is worth seeing, it's a very good film
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What's the Story?
In early 1955, James Dean (Dane DeHaan) was about to break out. His first big film, East of Eden, was complete but hadn't been released, and he was about to be cast in Rebel Without a Cause. He wasn't quite a star, but Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson), a photographer for Life magazine, saw something in him. Over the course of a few weeks, even accompanying Dean to his small Indiana hometown, Stock persuaded the actor to pose for a series of photos that have since become some of most iconic images of the charismatic young celebrity-to-be.
Is It Any Good?
The biggest issue with LIFE is DeHaan's portrayal of Dean -- and that's a big issue in a James Dean biopic. DeHaan plays the iconic actor as all swagger and little depth, more like his defiant character in Rebel Without a Cause than his own person; it's an affected performance that doesn't reveal the charisma that propelled the young actor to stardom. Pattinson's Stock seems more real, and we feel his frustration as he juggles deadlines, family, and an uncooperative subject as he tries to get the shots he needs.
While Life is told through the lens of Stock's experience, the story is all about Dean, and without a compelling James Dean, there's not much reason to watch. People who don't know much about his off-screen life probably won't feel like they've learned much about him from the big-screen Life.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about James Dean. Do you think Life captures the young actor's charisma? Can you tell why he was so popular?
How does Life's take on James Dean compare to the way stars are often shown in other biopics? Is he portrayed as a role model?
What role did the media play in James Dean's life? In his status as a star/icon? How does that compare to stars' relationship with the media today?
- In theaters: December 4, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: March 1, 2016
- Cast: Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Joel Edgerton
- Director: Anton Corbijn
- Studio: Cinedigm
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some sexuality/nudity and language
- Last updated: October 2, 2022
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