There’s a famous photograph of James Dean in Times Square taken by Dennis Stock. It is now a movie called ‘Life.’ ★★
So ‘Life’ the movie is all about that photograph, and the events leading up to, and after, that photograph was taken. It’s also a buddy movie: one man on the cusp of celebrity, another man trying to capture him while struggling to make it as a photographer and to also spend time with his young son, with an un-cooperative ex-wife. Stock (Robert Pattison) is tasked with an assignment: to do a photo essay on an unknown actor. So he’s introduced to James Dean (Dane DeHaan) at a party, where he’s also introduced to a young Natalie Wood (Lauren Gallagher). Dean in on the cusp of fame – his first film – East of Eden – was yet to be released. So Dean agrees to have Stock follow him around to get some shots. The first are rejected by his editor – who wants to see hazy shots of an unknown actor boozing it up in a club with Eartha Kitt (Kelly McCreary)? Stock thinks about taking another job, this one in Japan, but he decides to stay in New York and gets back together again with Dean, and on the spur of the moment that famous Times Square photograph is taken. Not to end there, ‘Life’ takes us with Dean and Stock to Dean’s hometown in Indiana.
As you can second guess, there’s not much of a story to build on. ‘Life’ is not only about the photographs, it’s also about the relationship between these two men and especially the trust Stock builds with Dean. But ‘Life’ is boring, with stale dialogue, and with acting that is quite lifeless. Pattison is fine as Stock, but DeHaan, even though he has hair that looks identical to Dean’s, just doesn’t bring the right energy and sparkle that we can presume Dean had. Ben Kingsley, however, is excellent as Jack Warner – the man who guided Dean’s career. And while the period details (clothes, cars, hairstyles) are fine, it’s the story that is not a very exciting one and is not enough to warrant a 110-minute film.
Director Anton Corbijn just doesn’t bring any ‘Life’ to this movie.
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.