Seberg

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Seberg Movie Poster Image
Fascinating, tragic story of Jean Seberg vs. the FBI.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 96 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Discriminating against others based on ideals, beliefs, or even skin color is portrayed as an act of hate, disguised as a sense of duty.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No real role models here. Seberg is shown as a tragic character who lived a short, sad life, and whatever fame or influence she might have had is negated by how much she suffered. Jack Solomon is admirable but goes down the wrong path before trying to do the right thing.

Violence

A character violently kicks a little dog and kills it. A gun is shown. Main character yells, smashes things. General paranoia.

Sex

Bare breasts seen. Kissing, suggested sex. Extramarital affairs. Controversy over identity of the father of a woman's baby.

Language

Strong language includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," etc.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking. Social drinking. Drug use/prescription meds.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Seberg is a semi-biopic about actress Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart). It's set in the late 1960s, when Seberg met activist Hakim Jamal and began to be hounded by the FBI. Language is strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. There's also some sexual content, including a topless woman and characters having an extramarital affair. A woman gets pregnant, and there's controversy over who the father might be. In terms of violence, a gun is shown, there are tantrums and shouting, and a character kicks and kills a little dog. Characters drink and smoke casually, and there's some drug use. It's a bit overblown and uneven, but it works well overall, with fine cinematography and costume design and a strong star performance.

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What's the story?

In SEBERG, it's 1968, and actress Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) is well known for her roles in movies like Bonjour Tristesse and Breathless. She lives in Paris with her husband, Romain Gary (Yvan Attal), and their son. On a plane trip to Los Angeles, Seberg meets African American activist Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie) and then poses for a photo with him giving the Black Power salute. The two begin an affair, and Seberg also donates money to his cause. Meanwhile, since the FBI has targeted Jamal as a "subversive," Seberg also becomes a target. Two agents -- kind Jack Solomon (Jack O'Connell) and ruthless Carl Kowalski (Vince Vaughn) -- are assigned to follow, bug, and photograph her. Hounded and scrutinized, her life starts to fall apart, and Solomon's conscience starts to bother him. Can he undo the damage that's been done?

Is it any good?

Once it becomes clear that this biopic is really only half about Jean Seberg, then it starts to work in its own fascinating, tragic way, driven by Stewart's fierce, fervent lead performance. Directed by Benedict Andrews, Seberg -- which probably ought to have been called Seberg vs. the FBI -- introduces us to a headstrong Jean Seberg; a prologue shows how she was actually burned during the burning-at-the-stake sequence of Saint Joan, her first film, and survived. Throughout the movie, Stewart sports Seberg's trademark pixie haircut and an array of dazzling '60s fashions, proving that she's not afraid. Yet the movie also captures her humanity, the way she carries her many burdens, and it's possible to empathize with her.

O'Connell is the movie's other main character, a reader of Captain America comics who's married to med student Linette (Margaret Qualley), with whom he's unable to talk to about his top-secret work. He's likewise an engaging soul, and the eventual meeting between him and Seberg is a necessary coda. Despite some overblown moments and simplistic shortcuts, the movie looks great, with fine cinematography by Black Panther's Rachel Morrison that emphasizes a trapped feel even within the open spaces of Los Angeles. And director Andrews allows even the supporting characters to come to life; Qualley is especially good, as is Zazie Beetz as Hakim Jamal's wounded wife. Seberg may not be a definitive biopic of this lovely, sad celebrity, but it's still a fascinating movie.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Seberg's depiction of sex and sexuality. What values are imparted? How do characters feel about or react to extramarital affairs?

  • How are drinking, smoking, and drug use portrayed? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • How does the movie handle racism? How do racist characters justify their beliefs? How can racism be combated?

  • Did this movie encourage you to learn more about Jean Seberg?

  • What's the appeal of celebrity biopics? How does this one compare with other movies about Hollywood stars?

Movie details

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