August 22nd, 2015 / 8 Comments

I have to admit, I haven’t given away too many spoilers because I don’t want to take away from the initial experience of seeing this film.  In any event, I have placed the review under the cut. If you don’t want to read, you better not scroll down or click on the cut.  If you want to comment or discuss, please feel free to do so in the comments section.  This review is a collaboration between myself and Vertigo.



Pattinson says, “I read the script for quite a long time before I decided to do it,” and he was impressed by the “elegant, poetic telling of the story.””

I had high expectations for this film, maybe too high, although I wasn’t disappointed I didn’t walk out of the theatre fistpumping like I did with The Rover, but I think there lies the problem.  The Rover set the bar way too high for me and Anton just snuck underneath.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a beautifully crafted film.  Anton Corbijn captures the essence of the era perfectly.  Owen Pallett’s jazz score lends to the feel.  Add to that Rob and Dane DeHaan’s performances where they genuinely portray the initial awkwardness that eventually blossoms into a friendship of mutual respect.  There is no denying that we are transported back to the 1950s.

The film opens with Dennis Stock in a dark room.  He meets with his agent, John Morris, (Joel Edgerton) and we get a glimpse into how frustrated he is with his rudimentary job of attending red carpets and movie sets to take photos.  You see, Stock is an artist, he wants to show the world what he’s capable of.  We meet Jimmy at a party given by Nicholas Ray at the Chateau Marmont, where he already seems disillusioned by the Hollywood machine.  He’s at the party purely because he’s auditioned for the part in Rebel Without A Cause, and he’s hoping Ray will tell him whether he has landed it.  Enter disillusioned, but ambitious Dennis Stock who stumbles across disinterested and cheeky Jimmy.   This meeting sets up what will be Stock chasing Jimmy for the chance to do a spread on him for Life magazine.  He tries to sell this idea to Morris who isn’t familiar with Jimmy and asks “What do you see in him”.  Realistically what Dennis sees is an opportunity to ride the coattails of an emerging star, but what transpires is a relationship that makes both men stop and think about who they really are and what they want from life.

Rob’s performance as Dennis Stock is as the trailer suggests “superb”.  Rob does awkward and stressed perfectly.  He takes on every little nuance and frustration of Stock showing glimpses of his ambitious drive of wanting to be an “artist”, not just a red carpet photographer, to the guilt he feels for never seeing the son he has from a teenage marriage that fell apart before his son was even born.  Dane’s performance as Jimmy is good, he may not look like Dean, but he has the mannerisms down pat.  Although if I’m being honest, I have to agree that Rob definitely steals the show.  You also need to keep an eye out for Anton Corbijn’s tongue in cheek cameo as a red carpet photographer.  Joel Edgerton also nails the character of Morris.  The scenes where Joel interacts with Rob’s Stock are some of my favourite scenes.  They seem to play off each other brilliantly.

The relationship in the beginning between Jimmy and Dennis is awkward. It made me as the viewer feel uncomfortable and it wasn’t until almost half way through the film when the pair were on their way to Indiana that the film gelled for me.  In hindsight, perhaps this was the intention of Corbijn. Whilst in LA and New York, Jimmy was stiffled and uneasy while outside of his home town of Indiana thanks to the Hollywood machine.  It often felt like he wasn’t the “rebel” that he was painted out to be, just he didn’t fit his skin when he was being asked to be who he wasn’t.  Dane’s Jimmy became more believable when he was open and comfortable to be back with his family and way less constrained.   Vertigo noticed, if she remembers correctly, that there seemed to be more close ups of Jimmy in the scenes in LA and NY, possibly in order to capture what a big presence he was when around other people.  When in Indiana though, it seemed like there weren’t so many close ups which made it feel more about everything and everyone around him and his comfort amongst it.  It’s in Indiana that their relationship changes, especially after Dennis overhears Jimmy talking about him to his uncle.  Jimmy says “I felt sorry for him”, “He just can’t seem to get out of his own way”.  Although Dennis threatens to go back to NY, he decides to stay and see out his assignment, and actually spends time looking in on himself.  From here on out you see a much more carefree Dennis, if that’s possible, and some really fun scenes between the two of them.  You might even see Rob “dancing”.

Ben Kingsley is perfectly cast as the tough and irritated Jack Warner.  You see he sees Jimmy for what he is – a meal ticket – and is not impressed by his refusal to play the game.  “You’re an intelligent boy?” Warner says  somewhat threateningly.  Jimmy thinks it’s just a statement and doesn’t respond.  Warner tells him irritated “That’s a question”. Jimmy responds nonchalantly.  Warner then lays down the law and says  “If you’re not a good boy, I’m going to f8&^ you, till it hurts very much.”.  And there we have Hollywood and Jimmy’s problem.  He just doesn’t care enough about the promotion side of the business.

The films final scenes see the now iconic photographs being published in LIFE magazine the day before the Times Square premiere of East of Eden.  An event that Jimmy decides to not attend because regardless of all the threats of the menacing Jack Warner, Jimmy does what Jimmy wants.  The closing scene has Jimmy’s voiceover poignantly reciting James Whitcomb Riley’s poem “We Must Get Home”.  Jimmy just wanted to be a good actor without the trappings of Hollywood and Dennis just wanted to be a successful artist.  The relationship may have been brief, but it exposed both men to a friendship that would change the way both thought about who they wanted to be.  It’s tinged with sadness because we know that Jimmy wouldn’t live to reach his full potential nor would he ever go back to Indiana.

Anton Corbijn and Luke Davies’ “LIFE” brings us an interesting and well researched story.  It allows us to glimpse into the lives of the two people who brought us possibly one of the most iconic portraits out of Hollywood and like Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars”, it’s shining a not so positive light on the trappings of the Hollywood fame.

I recommend you definitely go and see “LIFE”, it may just make you feel differently about how you live.

  • anlimara
    Posted on August 22, 2015

    Thank you so much, Maria, for being so careful with the Spoiler alert and not giving away to much in advance. I just read it a little because I also don’t want to know too much before watching the film by myself. But I learned from your text, Ben Kingsley is really in the movie – for me this was just a rumour – and I’m very very glad about that because I like him a lot. So thanks for all your hard work and dedication here and – yes – I can’t wait to watch the film soon :-)))

  • Sue
    Posted on August 22, 2015

    Thanks Maria & Vertigo, loved reading your review. I must admit, I’m really looking forward to seeing Rob & Joel together – Joel looks & sounds fantastic in the trailers. Can’t wait to be transported back to the 50s for a couple of hours. Not long to wait now!

  • Cindy
    Posted on August 22, 2015

    Thanks ladies look forward to seeing it myself

  • Julie- Sydney RobFan
    Posted on August 22, 2015

    Thank you Maria and Vertigo. I am really looking forward to seeing it in two weeks and the review as got me even more excited.
    Less than 2 weeks to go

  • barbara
    Posted on August 23, 2015

    Could this beautiful movie be the miracle that blows away the cobwebs from the ears and heads of the critics, as they watch in wonderment the genius of Robert Pattinson morphing into Dennis Stock. I am so excited about this movie, Thankyou sweet ladies. xx

  • barbara
    Posted on August 23, 2015

    Maria I know I have already posted but I have just found out “Life” will be showing here in Coffs Harbour on the 10th September, yipppeee here in Coffs bloody Harbour. I am twirling with joy.
    Can’t wait, smiling smiling xxxx

  • Maria
    Posted on August 23, 2015

    Excellent Barbara I’ll update the post so others know too.

  • Jules
    Posted on August 24, 2015

    Outstanding review girls – absolutely loved reading it, made me smile from ear to ear – so thrilled you got this opportunity to see it so soon too 😉 Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, really appreciate it. *twirls out*

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