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Vox Lux – Movie Review

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Vox Lux – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

The “rags to riches” celebrity story is one that is all too common in motion picture history, so it’s good to see Vox Lux take a different and darker approach to the material. There is a cynical edge that director/writer Brady Corbet brings to the material as he details a young singer’s rise to stardom and then jumps ahead to her as an adult. However, that missing part of the story feels crucial and as such, the characters fall a little short. The grown up Celeste, as played by Natalie Portman, does grate on the nerves. This is clearly intentional on Corbet and Portman’s part, but it also makes for an altogether difficult watch.

The best section of Vox Lux is the first half, when tragedy befalls teenage Celeste. Corbet carefully navigates the subject matter and we see the effect a school shooting has on a town. It’s done tastefully and the complex emotions running through Celeste’s head are well portrayed by Raffey Cassidy. Corbet definitely seeks to present a scathing critique of the music industry and how they attempt to profit off her sorrowful tribute to those who died in this tragedy. What Vox Lux especially nails are the over-the-top music video scenes, as they combine Sia’s poppy songs with odd imagery and flashy editing. It’s difficult to not immediately think of Madonna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and even Sia herself.

Yet the movie somehow avoids delving too deeply into Celeste’s thought process. Where is the guilt or moral questioning that something so horrible led to her fame? The coldness which overtakes Celeste might have been intentional, but it keeps one at arm’s length. The decision to cut immediately to her at 31 years old dilutes her development. A large chunk of the story is missing as a result and we don’t get to see a natural transition for the character. Celeste is immediately boisterous and obnoxious and it’s incredibly jarring. What we’re left with is a movie with a first and third act, but no middle.

Natalie Portman has the trickiest role to play. Not only are we supposed to believe this is the same woman from the first half of the film, but her primadonna behaviour is hard to get a handle on. She is obviously meant to be egotistical and full of nonsensical comments that only somehow in her celebrity bubble could think up and to Portman’s credit, she nails that aspect of the character. However, there’s little more beyond that as we see her go from place to place, swearing and making odd remarks at everyone. Once the end credits roll, there is a feeling of “that’s it?” and it doesn’t feel like we have been given a lot of insight into Celeste.

During the first half of Vox Lux, it seems like the film wants to say a lot about celebrity and tragedy. However, during the second half, the film doesn’t present more than the expected “fame corrupts” message. Brady Corbet certainly has a vision and the themes he hopes to convey, but it’s all rather surface level. A lot of the time, it’s left to Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy to do most of the heavy lifting, along with a solid soundtrack courtesy of Sia and her collaborators. Ironically, Corbet proves himself as someone who would also be an excellent music video director, even as he skewers them.

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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