James Dean (1976) starring Michael Brandon, Stephen McHattie, Brooke Adams, Julian Burton directed by Robert Butler Movie Review

James Dean (1976)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Stephen McHattie in James Dean (1976)

Jimmy & Me

James Dean only made 3 movies as the star before he died at just the age of 24 yet his star shone so brightly that even now 50 plus years since his death he is still an icon. It is little surprise that this star who won hearts has been the subject of a few movies, some like this 1976 movie a biopic others focusing on the movies he made. But as I often have found in the past this biopic of James Dean told from the viewpoint of his room mate William Bast feels not only too much as if it is in awe of the legend but also a portrayal of Dean the public persona rather than the man behind what the public saw. Maybe I am wrong, to be honest the only ones who can tell you are those who knew Dean on a personal level but never the less "James Dean" the movie is interesting.

As mentioned "James Dean is told from the view point of his friend William Bast who roomed with him at times. It tells how he first met him when Dean was performing as Malcolm in a college production of Macbeth, how at times they didn't get on due to women and various other aspects of Dean's short life. What is also does is try to explain the man himself, how he could be so friendly one minute then go off into his own world the next.

Michael Brandon in James Dean (1976)

Now for those like me who are not James Dean experts "James Dean" is an interesting movie with skips along through his life quite nicely bringing to the screen some pivotal points from his short life. It highlights that he suffered from nerves, that he had a tortured soul and that he was very loyal to his close friends. But the trouble is and as mentioned it is a problem I have with other biopics the portrayal of Dean not only feels like it is in awe of the actor but also too much like a version of the on screen persona with too many scenes feeling like they have been built around how he acted on screen.

That brings me to the acting and of course Stephen McHattie's performance as James Dean. Now comparing a photo of Dean and McHattie and it really shows how different they look but McHattie does a good job of delivering James Dean as in the public persona and in those highly staged shots in black and white he looks more like the icon. Then there is Michael Brandon as William Bast and unfortunately comes across like someone who whilst close to Dean hung on to his coat tails.

What this all boils down to is that "James Dean" is an interesting look at the icon from someone who shared a room with him. But like so many biopics it feels like a movie about the on screen persona and what everyone wants James Dean to be than maybe how he really was.