Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) is a young photographer who is always looking for a story. When he meets actor James Dean (Dane DeHaan) just before the premiere of his first big film East of Eden, Dennis is sure that he is on to something. He convinces his boss John Morris (Joel Edgerton) to go along and starts trailing Jimmy. Jimmy is not an easy person and Dennis is desperate for things to work out somehow. Slowly they get closer though.
Life is one of the most static, boring and long [I’m trying very hard not to make a “lifeless” pun] films I have ever seen. It was so intensely boring that I was absolutely uncomfortable while watching.
I guess we all know this photo of James Dean that basically prompted this film. And it really is impressive how painstakingly accurate they recreated this and the other photographs of the series. It’s an amazing achievement and obvioulsy one they put a lot of effort into. Dane DeHaan doesn’t look much like James Dean most of the time, but when the angle is just right, it becomes almost uncanny.
But that, unfortunately, is the only praise I can give the film. Because I really found nothing else worthwhile in it. DeHaan plays Dean like a monotone, depressed heroin addict with occasional maniacal bouts of giggling. I do assume this was a directing decision and I don’t get it. Maybe it was supposed to make Dean seem more mysterious or maybe Dean really was that way (although then I would wonder how he would ever have seemed charismatic enough to warrant that hype that surrounds hims). In any case it was irritating as hell.
It doesn’t help either that they decided not to touch Dean’s bisexuality (or at least not-entirely-heterosexuality), not even come close to it in the slightest (Robert Pattinson on the other hand, bless his heart, decided that Stock must have been deeply in love with Dean and that’s how he plays it). Or that there are barely any women in the film in the first place and the few that are there all have to serve in some sexual capacity for the men (one gets to be only an emotional caregiver).
Life takes a promising set-up and tells absolutely no story worth telling with it. It’s focus on photograph and total lack of tension lead to a strangely undynamic, unmoving, limp film. I have yet to see a Corbijn film that I really liked but Life may be the worst so far. It certainly felt longest.