Stars: Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, Kristian Bruun, Alessandra Mastronardi.
Director: Anton Corbijn
Screenplay: Luke Davies
Life (2015) starts off strong then it meanders into a formulaic trickle as it paces itself to the finish line. Centred around then struggling set photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) as he finds this mystical being of a man James Dean (Dane DeHaan) to be the star of his break to become a real artist. Dean is an up and coming problematic star that Warner Brothers are trying to mould into their breakout lead while Dean himself has no plans of playing their Hollywood game.
DeHaan does a very suitable job of playing the impressive star as he channels Dean while still bringing his own spin to the man. Pattinson plays Stock as a man who doesn't quite know who he is yet; he presents himself one way but it is quite clear that his persona is barely cloaking his own self conscious anxiety. Pattinson is clever in his performance as he could have played this role with his usual awkward charm but instead he allows his character to come off as slightly odd, creepy, and kind of unlikeable.
The cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen is beautiful here, she has the ability to capture the light and feel of the era. There is a glamour to the camera, with her eye and Corbijn's direction they are able to bring to life the era of 1955 in a way that feels natural, or as natural as a photographer would like to present as natural.
However while the film is beautiful, the cast do a great job of bringing to life their characters, the pacing and script brings this film down. There is no magic to this experience of a photographer capturing the life of this young man. This may be a real depiction of how these photos are being taken, but why can't you let a little bit of Hollywood step in to make it feel bigger than a man making another man pose for him. The other big issue is the film needing to show how Stock captured his most famous Dean images. It feels so forced on screen with the lead up feeling formulaic instead of these characters finding the magic moment out of dozens of film roles.
Very pretty, but sometimes removing the mystery from beautiful imagery leaves them feeling shallow instead of adding depth.