SEBERG*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Alex
In Paris, 1968, Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) is a successful American actress living with her husband Romain Gary (Yvan Attal) and son. She bids them farewell as she leaves for a work trip to Los Angeles. Her agent Walt Breckman (Stephen Root) encourages her to take some more commercial parts, but she’s interested in making artistic choices that make a difference.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, black protests against police brutality have achieved national attention. FBI Agent Jack Solomon (Jack O’Connell) lives with his wife Linette (Margaret Qualley). At work, his supervisor Frank Ellroy (Colm Meaney) shows him surveillance of Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie), who he claims is uniting radical black groups to overthrow the government.
On the plane, Jean witnesses Hakim, who is on the same flight, arguing with a stewardess about discrimination and not being given access to first-class seats. Jean offers to give up her seats for his, and the two become acquainted. When her plane lands, the paparazzi swarm her, and so she poses with Hakim and his group and holds up a black power fist in solidarity.
Solomon and fellow agent Carl Kowalski (Vince Vaughn) begin surveillance on Hakim. While they’re watching, Jean stops by. She tells Hakim she wants to help fight oppression, and he asks her to come down to the center to see his work. Jean surmises that he caused the scene on the plane on purpose because he saw her get on the plane – she asks if it was her money he was trying to get to, or her? The two have sex – Hakim notices Jean has burn scars that she got during an accident on a famous film shoot.
All of their tryst is recorded on the FBI audio surveillance, and Solomon and Kowalski present their findings to Ellroy, including Jean’s history of donations to civil rights group and the NAACP, and her saying she was willing to give funding to Hakim. Solomon gets approval for full surveillance on Jean. Jean and Hakim continue to spend time with each other and sleep together, and he helps her rehearse a scene for an audition. While Jean is at her audition, Solomon goes into her home and takes photos, including of her Black Panther membership cards,
Jean meets Hakim’s wife, Dorothy (Zazie Beetz), and Jean gives them more money for their cause. Solomon continues to surveil her, and watches lots of her movies. Jean gives an interview where she says she’s considering a script about a black man and a white woman falling in love – this makes Walt push her to take a more commercial script, but Jean doesn’t seem interested.
Jean hosts an event for Hakim’s group at her home, where he gives a speech on peace – Romain asks him if there aren’t some things that must be fought for violently. When a listening device malfunctions, Solomon acts as a waiter and sneaks into the party – where a number of high-ranking black panthers are in attendance. Hakim confronts Jean about inviting the Panthers, since he disagrees with their methods. Jean tells him it raises their profile which is good for the cause – Hakim tells her it can also bring more attention to her, and she should be more careful. Jean runs into Solomon and has a polite exchange with him and offers him some weed, which he smokes reluctantly.
The FBI review the recordings from the party. They want to leak the affair between Jean and Hakim to ruin Hakim’s credibility in the black power movement. Ellroy tells them that Seberg is now also a target for their campaign as well, to show the world that it isn’t okay to associate and fund the movement. They call Hakim’s home and play the recording of Hakim and Jean sleeping together for Dorothy. Dorothy confronts Jean, who apologizes and says she never wanted to hurt her. Dorothy tells her she never wants to see her again.
Solomon and Linette go to dinner at Kowalski’s house with his wife and daughter. Kowalski talks about his son who lives in a commune up north with disdain, and he snaps at, belittles, and threatens his wife and daughter Jenny, who has a haircut just like Jean. The FBI leaks the information about Hakim and Jean to the Panthers, who begin smearing Hakim. Hakim tells Jean he can’t see her anymore, and that her home is being bugged. He tells her about the tape and to go back to Paris.
Dorothy comes to Jean’s house with a gun, threatening her to stay away from her family and firing the gun. Solomon, still surveilling, wants to save Jean but Kowalski stops him, saying it will ruin the surveillance. Dorothy leaves without harming Jean. The next day, Romain tells Jean he and their son are going back to Paris, needing to be safe from this whole situation. Jean tells him that someone is listening to her and that means what she’s doing is important, and that she won’t stop. She asks him to please stay until the premiere of her movie.
Several months later, the FBI has continued its operation. Romain has come for the premiere of her movie. She continues to insist she is being surveilled, though he is skeptical. When she leaves for the premiere, Jean tapes the bottom of the door. The FBI enters and bugs her hotel room, and an agent kicks Jean’s dog to keep it from barking. Jean rushes back to change her outfit, and discovers the tape is torn and her dog dead. Solomon angrily attacks the agent who did that.
Jean goes to the premiere, trying to pretend everything is alright. After the premiere, Jean and Romain have dinner with Walt and his wife, but Jean is paranoid about the surveillance. At dinner, Jean gets a call at the restaurant – it’s Solomon, who tells her to stop the donations and the association with the Panthers, warning her that “they will come after her” and destroy her reputation and career. She tells him “fuck you” and hangs up. At home, Linette finds all the photos Jack has of Jean and accuses him of having an affair.
in 1970, Jean is working on her next movie and is still acting paranoid. When she sees a crew member looking at her, she wants to know who he is and asks to have him removed. She is becoming unstable and unraveling. Solomon confesses to Linette what the operation with Jean is and that he feels guilty about Jean’s deteriorating state. Linettte suggests he go to the papers or quit.
Jean meets with Hakim to see how he’s doing and confesses that she is pregnant. The father is a young man she met in Mexico but muses that it would be a beautiful thing if the baby were theirs. Kowalski is surveilling the conversation, and wants to leak the story that Jean is pregnant with Hakim’s baby to humiliate and ruin her. Solomon argues against it, knowing it’s a lie and cruel, but is overruled. The press hounds Jean, fascinated by the story.
Romain asks Jean if the story is true, and she tells him it isn’t Hakim’s baby. Romain insists they sue over the libel. Jean becomes worse and worse, tearing the phones apart looking for listening devices, and drinking and taking lots of pills. Linette brings Solomon the newspaper, showing that Jean attempted suicide, which devastates him.
Later, Jean has a press conference, where she announces that her two-day-old daughter has died. She says her daughter did not deserve the lies written about her and intends to sue Newsweek. She tells the press that she is not the victim, but a far greater power is at play, and they are the ones manipulating everything. Solomon listens to the press conference, and later replays hours of the surveillance audio of Jean. He breaks into the office at night and steals Jean’s file.
Jean goes to the bar and has a drink, and Solomon is at the bar next to her. She asks if she knows him, and he confesses to being the man who called her on the phone. She asks him to leave, but he gives her the files on her containing photos, transcripts, and FBI memos about neutralizing and humiliating her. Solomon apologizes and says she deserves to know the truth – Jean tells him it’s not the truth, it’s lies. She asks him if he has a family – he tells her his wife is expecting. She congratulates him, and tells him to take the file with him.
As Jean has a cigarette at the bar, post-script reveals that in 1971, activists exposed Hoover’s illegal surveillance program, COINTELPRO, which was condemned by Congress. Jean stayed in Paris and continued to donate and support political causes, and never worked in Hollywood again. In 1979, at age 40, she was found dead in her car after been missing for days, ruled a “probable suicide” with “unresolved questions.”
Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) is a successful actress who publicly and financially supports civil rights causes. She meets Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie), a black rights activist, and she begins helping with his cause, as well as having an affair with him. The FBI are surveilling black rights movements and begin bugging Jean.
They leak the affair in an attempt to humiliate and discredit Jean and Hakim, who ends the affair.
When Jean becomes pregnant, the FBI leaks a false story that the father is Hakim to further torment her. Jean insists she is being spied on, but even her husband is skeptical. Jean becomes paranoid and unravels, drinking and taking pills, even attempting suicide. Eventually, Jean has her baby, who dies two days after birth. At a press conference, she holds the press accountable for their lies and vows to get to the truth. One of the FBI agents, Jack Solomon (Jack O'Connell) feels guilty about what they've done and shows Jean the files proving she was right.
Post-script reveals that the FBI's illegal surveillance operation, COINTELPRO, was exposed and condemned. Jean never worked in Hollywood again, and at age 40 died of a "probable suicide" with unresolved questions.