“I lose myself in my roles, I don’t want to lose myself in all this other stuff”
When I found out that this movie was in the works, it felt like forever until the release date. I’ve always been fascinated by James Dean and his era, and within the last 18 months my love for Dane Dehaan has grow profoundly – so Life was a must see. Many reviews have criticised Dehaan’s performance and the lack of a gripping storyline, but hear me out and I might just convince you to give it a shot.
This biography captures a time in James Dean’s life when he meets photographer Dennis Stock – portrayed by Robert Pattinson. Dean was on the brink of changing popular culture and with the help of Stocks persistency and talent, he succeeded. East of Eden had just been released and Rebel Without a Cause was on the horizon. Stuck in limbo, James was torturing himself between his infatuation with acting and Hollywoods expectations of him. Stock observers his awkward, introvert nature. The way that James moves, the way he holds himself in various environments, charms the photographer and after a small road trip around America, they produce some of the most iconic images of that era.
Life isn’t a high-concept feature showing off the glitz and glam of Hollywood. Corbijn has captured a moment in time. Not only do we study James Dean, but we learn about the man behind the camera, the creator of the authentic and recognised images of an iconic young actor. When we look at old photographs, rarely do we know what happened before or after they were taken, however, Life fills in the gaps around this particular collection of images.
Dane Dehaan portrays James Dean as a free spirited rascal with a love for acting but a dislike for Hollywood; a heartthrob and a trend setter. You want to look at him and keep looking. The dialogue between him and Dennis Stock is poetic and witty. You’re welcomed into his mind to pick apart his thoughts. He’s quiet but he says a lot. James is very much
overwhelmed by the consequences of his lifestyle, which results in his ‘bad boy’ persona.
When watching a biopic, it’s important not to get too wrapped up with the portrayal of the character being identical to who they were in real life. Humans are complex and mirroring each other is impossible, but I think Dehaan has done a great job.
If you’re a lover of James Dean, vintage Hollywood or photography then you’ll definitely enjoy this movie. Watch two men go from state to state creating and endorsing themselves in art.