While Krampus, and an animated dinosaur battled Katniss at the box office this past weekend a quieter movie opened in a handful of theaters. Life starring Robert Pattinson, and Dane DeHaan opened with an all too under the radar release made its understated debut after playing the festival circuit for nearly a year. The movie is a non-traditional biopic of the sorts about the iconic film actor James Dean (DeHaan), and his friendship with photographer Dennis Stock.

Besides the James Franco 2001 TV movie, and an unusual independent film called Joshua Tree 1951: A Portrait of James Dean there hasn’t been very many attempts to capture who exactly was James Dean on film. The Franco film never quite rose about the “made for cable” genre despite a breakthrough performance by its main star. The Joshua Tree movie was too experimental to really fully work as an accurate depiction. Life is directed by Anton Corbijn (A Most Wanted Man, and Control) and is able to finally able tell viewers a little something more the actor.

Dean only made three features films, and was only alive for the release of East of Eden. His follow up films Rebel Without a Case and Giant were both released after his death in a car crash at 24. Corbijn wisely knows that Dean’s life story can hardly be contained in one traditional biopic, and concentrates on the period of his life between the release of Eden and right before he was cast in Rebel.


The movie begins with Dennis Stock working the rounds at the Chateau Marmont Hotel taking press photos at an event film director Nicolas Ray was hosting for preproduction of Rebel Without a Cause. Meeting James Dean smoking a cigarette out by the poolside bar Stock takes an interest to the unknown actor. By the way if you’re looking for best e cig, Mig Vapor has advanced e cigs and vape mods that are designed to provide the ultimate vaping experience that you deserve without the needless hassle. After seeing him in an early press screening of East of Eden Stock asks his editor John Morris (Joel Edgerton) to do a profile on the rising talent for Life Magazine. Reluctantly Morris agrees for Stock to photograph him for a photo essay. The end result of course became some of the most iconic images of the actor.

When most think of James Dean one of Stock’s photos usually is the first image of the actor that comes to mind. To focus on a short period in Dean’s life is a clever undertaking of the material since Dean’s life is too complicated to fit in a traditional biopic. There are plenty of misconceptions about Dean, and DeHaan’s performance here feels the most true to life of who he probably was as a person. Then again nobody really knows who the real James Dean was. He’s just as shrouded in mystery today, as he was when he was alive. Dean was probably much more fascinating of an individual that the public might realize. The actor’s short life is way too large for a movie review, so I’ll spare you the interesting details. But, when it comes down to it Dean was an actor of a different caliber. He was odd, introverted, a bit self-absorbed (as with most great actors), and went against the clean-cut image of the trained-monkey studio actors of the period.

While the movie might leave out some major aspects of Dean’s life –like his sexuality- the movie really does capture his intensity well. When all is said and done it’s a small, but very personal story about how an artist relates to its subject. For those looking for a wide all-encompassing look at his life might want to look elsewhere. It’s a pity this movie has become so widely ignored. It’s the best-unseen movie of 2015 that will probably gather a cult following as an underrated film in the years to come.

*Available to rent off VOD platforms iTunes and Amazon.