Seberg (15)**

Dir: Benedict Andrews

With: Kristen Stewart, Jack O’Connell, Anthony Mackie

Runtime: 102 mins

As many a clunky biopic has shown over the years, it’s generally a good idea that a biographical drama focuses on a particular point in time rather than trying to cram an entire lifetime into two hours. But there still needs to be to be a viable hook within that, something frustratingly lacking from this portrait of Jean Seberg, an American actress of the 1960s and ‘70s who did her best work in French cinema.

Stewart is well cast physically as Seberg, whom we first meet in Paris in 1968 as she heads for Los Angeles, leaving behind her young son and philandering husband. It’s an era of political turmoil, from student protests in France to the Black Panthers in the States, and on the flight to LA, Jean encounters Black Power activist Hakim Jamal (Mackie) and becomes involved with him as well as making financial contributions to his cause.

Meanwhile, in what initially feels like it’s from another film, we meet FBI agent Jack Solomon (O’Connell), a sound expert who is assigned to begin a surveillance operation on Jean and her associations. To the FBI, these movements are akin to terrorist outfits, and there’s a good film to be made about the long-running counter intelligence campaign of harassment and smearing that went on under Hoover.

But there’s just not enough else of any heft to sustain the narrative or keep the attention even within this ongoing surveillance of Jean and the anguish it causes her, while Solomon’s growing obsession with her is never explored satisfactorily, meaning most encounters fizzle.

As a snapshot in time it provides an interesting blueprint for the era, but most individual scenes lack zip. We don’t learn much about Seberg the actress, who never feels especially lived in as either a character or performance, nor does it play up that ‘60s Hollywood glamour that’s often to be seen in films set in the period.

It scores a little with its ongoing relevance regarding racial tensions and female empowerment and how little we’ve evolved in 50 years, but that can’t compensate for the lack of compelling drama in a film that is more than a little dreary.