Rated 2.0

Director Anton Corbijn's Control, about the final days of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, is one of the best biopics I've ever seen. Now Corbijn turns his attentions to the great James Dean (Dane DeHaan) in this sometimes engaging account of the actor's interactions with Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson), photographer for Life magazine, shortly before his death. DeHaan plays a stripped down, decidedly unglamorous version of the icon, with a performance that's perhaps a little too stifled and mumbling at times. Corbijn and company are shooting for a low key portrayal here, and they succeed. The film is a good idea: a quiet look inside the backstory of James Dean, and it's fun to see some of Stock's more famous stills of Dean come to life. The film suffers a bit due to DeHaan's sometimes frustrating line deliveries, although he does look like Dean at some angles. Much of the film deals with Stock's family troubles, and that also drags the film down a bit. I suppose a rollicking biopic about Dean would not be in order. He was a complicated guy, probably a little tortured, and less likely the type to hang from the rafters at Hollywood parties. Corbijn's film isn't quite up to the level of Control, but it certainly has its moments, especially when Ben Kingsley's quietly sinister Jack Warner is occupying the screen. Dean's life probably wasn't as lonely and sad as this film depicts, but it probably was a moody one. (Available for rent on iTunes and On Demand during a limited theatrical release.)