Life (2015)

Though an appropriate name for a biopic, this film’s title ostensibly refers to the magazine its lead character is trying to get published in. Tired of unrewarding publicity shoots, photographer Dennis Stock wants to create an artistic portfolio that may one day lead to an exhibition of his own work. A photo-essay of an up-and-coming actor may just be his ticket, but his subject’s apathy is matched only by Stock’s despondency, resulting in a movie that remains stubbornly lifeless.

 

From his opening scene at a party held by Nicholas Ray, Dane DeHaan seems all wrong as James Dean. While bearing a passing resemblance to the actor, DeHaan approximates Dean’s cool remoteness by mumbling and peering out of dark, squinty eyes. Similarly, Dutch director Anton Corbijn’s attempts to give the film a jazzy tempo succumbs to each scene wandering aimlessly into the next.

 

There are scenes however which hint at what may have been. Ben Kingsley is magnificently malevolent as studio chief Jack L. Warner, and DeHaan has at least one standout scene relating a young James Dean accompanying his mother’s coffin back to Indiana.

 

Not so fortunate is Robert Pattinson, whose one-note performance as Dennis Stock contributes to making a biopic about a life cut short, seem awfully long.

cast, james dean, pier angeli, natalie wood, raymond massey
Dane DeHaan
Dane DeHaan

as James Dean

Alessandra Mastronardi
Alessandra Mastronardi

as Pier Angeli

Lauren Gallagher
Lauren Gallagher

as Natalie Wood

John Blackwood
John Blackwood

as Raymond Massey

1/3
fact check, factcheck, fact vs fiction, inaccuracies, true story

James Dean was not surprised by the announcement of Pier Angeli's engagement during an East of Eden press conference. Pier personally rang James Dean to let him know of her impending nuptials, but did not reveal who her fiancé was. Dean was reportedly outraged to learn it was Vic Damone when he later read about it in a newspaper.

film clip, scene comparison, video, photo, east of eden

No scene recreations in this biopic. Instead, we get recreations of the photos Dennis Stock took of James Dean before the release of East of Eden.

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