Rated: R for some sexuality/nudity and language. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: December 4, 2015 Released by: Cinedigm
A thoughtful, though somewhat frustrating, but unconventional limited biopic is Anton Corbijn's Life starring Robert Pattinson and Dane De Haan. Not as fruitful as My Week With Marilyn in its particular subtle grasp when one examines this kind of genre for an American, Australian, British, Canadian and German co-production.
You get a couple of weeks in the life of star-in-the-making 24-year-old actor James Dean (De Haan of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, not really resembling him) from a freelancing shutterbug like Dennis Stock (Pattinson of Twilight, Cosmopolis and Maps To The Stars). The eponymous magazine featured a memorable shoot of the actor by Stock which would be a part of many bedroom walls.
Corbijn's lensing background may not work as well as anticipated in into the tentative union between subject and lenser though the famous Times Square image with an overcoat and cigarette is meticulous recreated but doesn't have other intimately notable ones. A snippet of Dean's life includes Stock's interest in Dean's free-spirited quality (after watching an "East of Eden" screening") but lacking the ruminating fervor that the filmmaking doesn't capture or prefers to omit.
A photo essay is finally okayed by Stock's editor John G. Morris (Joel Edgerton, star and director of The Gift, in a stock role) as Dean will slowly open up with trips to the Big Apple and native Indiana when he rebels against the desired advertising advocated by studio ducat Jack Warner (expressed with ardent imperiousness by Ben Kingsley).
A restiveness in not trying for sheer mimicry lets De Haan manifest his growing range in a difficult medium even if the script doesn't really sift out the tricky crucial relationship though Corbijn does much to augment the period details through his talented craft contributors. It's evident in the jazz/schismatic riffs, polished camerawork and highly accoutered production design. Pattinson nearly matches his co-star as a 'premiere' scene indicates when Dean notices him furnishing a similar sense of an artist filled with bohemianism.
There may be a disconnect between the filmmaking and the plotting in how the proceedings are doled out in a way to leave discerning on-lookers wishing for more during a remarkably rendered 1955. See it for an inimitable look and the buoying portraits of a straight-man in Pattinson and a splashy DeHaan. Nonetheless, if a demonstrative, speculative cinematic interpretation with Hollywood figures like Natalie Wood, Judy Garland, Julie Harris, Eartha Kitt, Lee Strasberg, and Elia Kazan struggles often in its filtered iconic portraiture.