“Life” has just had its worldwide premiere in Berline during the 2015 Berlinale international film festival. Below you can find the collection of some of the biggest magazines and websites reviews. I included the links to original (full) articles, as well as posted the highlights related to Dane and his performance. Warning: some of the reviews may contain spoilers. Also please understand that not every article praises Dane, but I decided to collect all the opinions.
Berlin Review: Anton Corbijn’s ‘Life’ is a Bland James Dean Biopic Starring Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson
On Dane: DeHaan, despite his best efforts, doesn’t exactly resemble the actor, and his performance also registers as caricature: He nails the voice and posture but only to the level of a well-honed impersonation. The disconnect is all the more evident in DeHaan’s rapport with Pattinson.
Dane DeHaan is a magnetic James Dean in Anton Corbijn’s elegant study of the complex bond between star and shutterbug.
On Dane: DeHaan and Pattinson enact this anti-romance beautifully, each man quizzically eyeing the other for leads and clues, while coyly retreating from scrutiny. (…) DeHaan, meanwhile, plays Dean as the more openly flirtatious of the two, a flashier generational companion to his louchely inspired Lucien Carr in 2013’s “Kill Your Darlings.”
While he’s far from the first to suggest a distinct fluidity to the star’s sexuality, DeHaan’s is nonetheless a witty, inventive interpretation, exaggerating Dean’s breathy vocal mannerisms and relaxed body language to conjure an aura of studied, open-to-all sensuality. (…) Though he’s considerably aided by immaculate costuming and hairstyling, DeHaan doesn’t look much like his subject; his performance glides on its own brand of quicksilver intensity.
On Dane: DeHaan method acts his way into the persona of a consummate method actor whose cool persona was partly a protective screen; his Dean is very much in the mould of the Dean remembered by his East Of Eden co-star Lois Smith, who once said: “He was a sweet, rustic person, but there was also this suspicious, taut, guarded young man
The Hollywood Reporter
Dane DeHaan plays James Dean while Robert Pattinson is the LIFE magazine photographer who captured the elusive star in a series of iconic 1955 portraits.
On Dane: [The] problem [of the movie being inauthentic] starts with DeHaan’s take on Dean, which seems more studied than inhabited, from the hunched shoulders and drowsy eyes to the sleepy-cool mumble. The performance becomes more effective as he gradually exposes a core of wounded vulnerability. But from Dean’s first appearance, the characterization struggles to avoid the trap of impersonation. DeHaan is solid in [the scene where James opens up during the Indiana trip] and later, when James lets down his defenses and reveals his solitude. And yet the film mostly grasps for unearned emotions.
Berlin Review: Anton Corbijn’s ‘Life’ Starring Robert Pattinson & Dane DeHaan
Grade: C+ / B-
On Dane: Neither Pattinson nor DeHaan, promising as they may be, have that many miles on the clock yet, and there’s a hesitance in the work of both actors. DeHaan actually benefits from the ostensibly thankless task of playing Dean (and from certain angles at certain times he looks uncannily like him), who at least has a fully-fledged persona he can play into or try to subvert (seldom the latter).
LIFE is the historically rigorous true story of a brief friendship between budding star James Dean just as he was about to explode in global consciousness as the tormented son in EAST OF EDEN
On Dane: DeHaan doesn’t exactly resemble Dean so much as inhabit his Fifties hipster lingo, attitude and speech patterns.
On Dane: Now, regrettably, to Corbijn’s one false note, and it’s kind of a big one: the casting of Dane DeHaan, who, let’s face it, is the last person on earth you’d expect to play James Dean. He just doesn’t have the conventional movie star good looks to be believable in that era. (To his credit, he has a unique look, which is perhaps why he’s had many great roles.) DeHaan’s Deanisms – that southern drawl, that forlorn stroll – seem almost comically overboard, verging on a costume party performance. Still, at least he didn’t overdo Dean’s trademark squinty eyes (a key part to any drunken costume party impersonation). (…) Replace DeHaan with a more apt actor (is James Franco too obvious?) and you’ve got a really great movie.
Robert Pattinson impresses in this stylish drama about the relationship between celebrity and the media.
On Dane: (…)Dennis Stock, outshines Dane DeHaan’s over-baked rendering of James Dean, although the latter is poignant enough to enliven this tale of men helping each other to take a leap into greatness. (…) Dane DeHaan ratchets up Dean’s rhythmic speech and sounds permanently like a performance poet reading Allan Ginsberg. His small cherubic face is worlds away from the big handsome mug of history. His awkward mannerisms morph beautifully into charm, still the array of affectations jar.
James Dean, although the lead-star of only three films, concreted himself as one of the cinema’s golden age legends quite quickly in the 1950’s – mainly through his unconventional approach to Hollywood’s rules – this is, all before his premature death quite soon later.
Grade: 3/5 stars
On Dane: For Dehaan, the performance, both visually and in terms of acting is undeniably suited as he resonates Dean’s moody and unique approach, showing him as a person, not merely an icon.
There is plenty of focus but little flash in Anton Corbijn’s Life (2015), a snapshot of one of cinema’s most enduring icons.
Grade: 3/5 stars
On Dane: Owen Pallett’s jazz-infused score and Corbijn’s sharp, conservative framing capture the essence of a decade in which America was shifting towards a more liberal perspective on life and the arts. DeHaan and Pattinson are also both terrific, at once elegant and charismatic, yet equally uncomfortable in the skins they inhabit. Dean’s ability to mirror the dilemmas of a disenfranchised generation of youngster made him a star and whilst DeHaan’s performance is a little over-exaggerated, he still manages to capture that sense of relatable despondency.
Berlinale 2015: Life Review
Grade: 4/5 stars
On Dane: To begin with, Jimmy Dean, played by an alluring Dane DeHaan, is somewhat difficult to connect with, at arms length with the media, and reluctant for Stock to complete his photo-essay on the rising star for Life Magazine. (…) Given the undeniable charm and charisma of Pattinson, there was always the fear that he would steal the show from his counterpart, and be perceived as the star. However such is his understated, subtle turn, it allows DeHaan to take on that very role, which, given he’s playing James Dean, simply has to be the case.
Grade: 4/5 stars
On Dane: From the first scene of Anton Corbijn’s Life, DeHaan gives us very much his own Dean, and he’s immediately rather fascinating. The resemblance is marginal – if anything, he looks more like a young Brad Pitt.