This movie chronicles the story behind the 1955 LIFE Magazine photo thread by Dennis Stock of then-rising star, James Dean, and gives us an inside look at some of Hollywood's most iconic images and into the life of a gifted, but troubled man.
Dane DeHaan turned down the role of James Dean five times as he felt intimidated playing such a respected figure. His wife, Anna Wood, eventually convinced him to take on the role. See more »
At the time the film is set (1954-55) it was not possible in Southern California to direct dial outside of a local calling area. Only an operator could place the call. At the time, area codes were used only by operators. Not until 1968 was it possible to direct dial calls beyond the local area. In 1955, in areas controlled by General Telephone (Santa Monica,West L.A., Malibu etc.), local numbers required dialing five digits. Other calls required an operator. In Pacific Telephone (Bell) areas (most of Los Angeles County), local calls required dialing seven digits; other calls required an operator. It was not yet possible to dial direct to New York; it was necessary to first dial 112 for long distance and have the operator place the call. See more »
Life is a frustrating film. It continually hints at what a quality product it may have well been, save for the large sections of padded out unnecessary detail, that slow the pace and affect the direction of the story.
In attempting to tell parallel stories of two ambitious individuals both aiming to reach the top of their chosen professions, it fails to do full justice to either character's life, particularly that of photographer Dennis Stock.
Director Anton Corbijn recreates the mid 1950's brilliantly, whilst securing fine acting from a very talented cast. Unlike many, I find no justification at all to criticise Robert Pattinson and Dane DeHaan in the key roles of Stock and iconic actor James Dean respectively. It was also fun seeing eminent supporting actors such as Ben Kingsley, playing a volatile studio head like Jack Warner.
But instead of investigating potential areas of background interest such as why Stock had become so interested in photography, the Magnum Photos co-op, or why he appeared so painfully introverted, the film spends an inordinate amount of time on debating the fine details of the setting up of the Dean photographic assignment. The brief scenes of Stock's unhappy married life, didn't really establish a great deal either, apart from what was already obvious.
The story certainly picks up after Stock follows Dean to his hometown in Indiana, where we find "the rebel without a cause" loved nothing better than to fit humbly and quietly back into the lifestream of his own family and local community. Whether it happened or not, I found the initially reluctant and shy Dean speaking to his high school peers some years after graduating, as fascinating as the making of the famous Stock/Dean portfolio of photographs in natural settings.
I think the film would have succeeded better by focussing more on the life of one of the two life figures. Much has already been written and depicted about James Dean. Here was the opportunity in my opinion to examine in depth, a life changing juncture in the journey of Stock, who was to evolve into a world famous photographer. Instead like a cursory analysis of an old photograph, Life only just manages to scratch the surface.
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