In May 1968, when this true story begins, the American actress Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) was about as big and acclaimed as it gets in France – to where she’d relocated – and famous enough back in the States. She was also committed to helping facilitate social change, and distinctly left-wing.
At the outset, Seberg temporarily leaves Paris – and her husband – to audition for Paint Your Wagon. En route, she meets black activist Hakim Jama (Anthony Mackie), with whom she has a fling in LA and who she assists financially and otherwise. As Jama wryly but accurately observes, “We have to wave a gun to get attention. You get your hair cut and you’re on the cover of Life Magazine.” Seberg is also seen publicly demonstrating her support for the Black Panther Party. This is not, needless to say, a stance calculated to endear her to the FBI – who set about a sustained campaign of bugging and other surveillance, intrusion, manipulation, dirty tricks and (in Seberg’s own accurate one-word summation) “persecution”. Seberg is brave and resolute, but – as you would – she becomes increasingly affected and distressed by this nightmarish ongoing experience.
Hollywood doesn’t have an especially impressive track record when it comes to dealing with this kind of subject matter. So, it’s something of a pleasant surprise to report that Seberg is intelligently scripted and keeps relatively – if not rigorously – close to the facts. It’s also quite engrossing, and Kirsten Stewart is excellent in a demanding role.