• Tosin Odumosu

Jean Seberg’s story: was her story really a reality or an expectation?

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

The American beauty’s story of her success and sudden downfall is questionable as the dramatization of her life disappoints her forgotten hard work into the industry.

French’s favourite Jean Seberg tragic story of the FBI’s obstructing her privacy amidst stalking and tapping into her phones concluded to them destroying her career after her financial involvement with the Black Panther Party, 1960s America was the time of success for Jean Seberg after her ‘Breathless’ success in France but was also her downfall with her addiction and depression. The hero-worshipped celebrity was portrayed by ‘Charlies Angel’s’ star Kristen Stewart in the 2019 political thriller film ‘Seberg’ directed by Benedict Andrews.

The story of the ‘icon of French New Wave cinema’ miscellaneously confuses me throughout the whole movie as Seberg’s has two personalities: what the media wants to see and when she’s around the people she’s close with but slowly she turns into one person but the person she didn’t want to become. Andrew’s representation of Seberg’s was too ordinary and picture-perfect: Seberg had an open marriage with her beau, 24 years her senior, Romain Gary in France and presented their relationship as understanding and unblemished at the beginning of the movie as she decides she wants to move back to America to fulfil a bigger acting career in Hollywood which is extremely baffling on how Gray, Yvan Attal, was calm with the fact that she’s willing to leave the family she created for the fake big American dream that was over-exaggerated in the 60s.

The movie continues onto her meeting Hakim Jamal who is played by Avenger’s Anthony Mackie on a flight and already they have a close mental relationship after his aggressive response towards Jean as she tries to offer him and Malcom X’s widow a seat in first class. The development of Hakim and Jean’s relationship is rushed as after one conversation they’re already having passionate sex with the FBI closely listens, the ignorance that Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel proceeded to write about interracial relationships have to be more sexual than emotionally especially while they’re both married. The over-sexualisation of black men has conferred the fantasy of a white woman being submissive, shamelessly degrading the confidence of a strong activist like Jean Seberg.

It’s also ironic as Kristen’s character explains how she’s working in another love story movie between a black man and white woman and continues to explain how “when people fall in love, they’re colour blind’ which expresses how quickly she fell for Hakim without knowing who he legitimately is. What also irritates me is Waterhouse and Shrapnel expectation on Dorothy Jamal, Zazie Beetz, as she finds out Hakim and Jean are having an affair: she’s presented as the angry black woman and storms at Seberg’s house with a gun calling her out, she didn’t find out about the affair from the media but through a racist drawing that was spread around the Black Panther Party community instead of confronting her husband.

On the other hand, the FBI is put on the high pedestal of the main cause of Seberg’s downfall because of the stalking and tampering her phone calls. Jack Solomon, Jack O’Connell, is a fictional character that comes from the stereotypical small town and moved to the big city for his young wife. The out-dated storyline of the white newlywed young couple bores me as they both happen to have big dreams for the future and is shamed for having big dreams, I thought America was about dreaming the amazing but everyone just happens to be the most negative people on earth with optimism and happiness with their life.

Of course, the young couple has troubles as the concerned wife starts to hate how late he’s staying out and believes he’s cheating on her; he just happens to have a slight protective obsession of Seberg as he has a front-line view of her career slowly deteriorating. Kristen’s representation truly captured the essence and somewhat soul of the late Seberg throughout the whole movie as she clearly shows the emotional development that the 1960s starlet had in her lifetime, the ‘Twilight’ actress with Anthony Mackie spews sex, passion, care and betrayal through the screen as they both go through the troubles of her being followed and the media accusing him as the father of the baby that died. However, I do wish they went into more detail of her involvement in the civil rights movement because it seems they made her look like she’s a bank for the community after sleeping with the married man who’s leading.

The movie lacked many important aspects in Jean Seberg’s life like her other affairs, her relationship with Romain Gray and how it’s slowly falling apart and how she ran back to France after the media attacked and destroyed her plans to ever be successful in Hollywood. But instead, they did a close up of Stewart’s face, holding a cigarette in an empty bar and created an overview of her life leading towards her death. The overview ruined the whole movie and lowered the standards of an iconic story by using a coming-of-age technique of avoiding the fact that they were too lazy to finish her story through the basic dramatic bold white text.

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