Playing James Dean on screen is always going to prove a difficult task no matter who the actor. Dean may well be the most iconic actor in the history of Hollywood and stepping into his shoes for a big screen adaptation of part of his life is a daunting task for anybody. Dane Dehaan is the man brave enough to take on the task in Anton Corbijn’s Life- the story of photographer Dennis Stock’s famous series of photos of Dean.
Playing Dennis Stock is Robert Pattinson who continues to defy his matinee idol status and taking on more challenging roles. Pattinson is perfectly adequate as Stock and showcases his abilities through out whilst Dehaan’s Dean proves a more difficult performance to rate. The quality of Dane’s performance varies as the movie goes on- when we first meet him Dehaan feels as though he is doing nothing more than an impression of Dean. His slouched posture, ruffled hair and softly spoken voice are all far too much and distract from the rest of the movie. Eventually though your eyes adjust and you start to believe Dehaan as Dean.
The film’s other big issue is that it’s narrative is based around a series of photos being taken. What this does is it means that the script is somewhat contrived to make sure we get from point A to point B to make sure Dean and Stock are in the right place to take said photo.
Corbijn however does have a knack for period detail and like with his debut feature Control the movie perfectly captures the time period it is set in. The film is also a fun look at the Hollywood system of the 1950’s with Ben Kingsley hamming it up to the max as big wig Jack Warner.
Life is not without its flaws, Dehaan’s performance is incosistent and at times the script does wear thin but on the whole it will likely entertain James Dean enthusiasts and Pattinson and Kingsley are both as solid as ever.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐