VOX LUX (2018)
Starring Natalie Portman, Raffey Cassidy, Jude Law, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Ehle, Stacy Martin, Natasha Romanova, Maria Dizzia, Erik King, Maria Severny, Daniel London, Matt Servitto, Christopher Dylan White, Sophie Lane Curtis, Candace Smith, Micheal Richardson, Allison Winn, Fred Hechinger, Leslie Silva, Meg Gibson and the voice of Willem Dafoe.
Screenplay by Brady Corbet.
Directed by Brady Corbet.
Distributed by Neon. 110 minutes. Not Rated.
For sure, Vox Lux was one of my least favorite films from the 2018 Philadelphia Film Festival.
Which surprised me. I like the bold choices that Natalie Portman makes in her film roles. I’ve enjoyed most of her films and appreciate bold social commentary. And in a film that opens with a 1999 horrific school shooting, there are few bolder social commentaries that could be made right now.
Narrated (by Willem Dafoe) like a very dark fairy tale or 2008-2009’s Pushing Daisies (streaming now on Amazon Prime!), Vox Lux delves straight into the bowels of horror. It tells the cautionary tale of sudden, unexpected fame when 13-year-old Celeste (played in her youth by Raffey Cassidy and in current day by Portman) is injured in a graphic Staten Island school shooting.
She then goes on to pen and perform an original song with sister Eleanor (played by Stacy Martin) that become the anthem of an injured nation, catapulting survivor Celeste to celebrity.
Vox Lux is a story told in two halves – Celeste’s early teenage years with her initial launch into celebrity and then jumps to 2017 where we see the current day mess that Celeste has become. This is complete with teenage daughter Albertine (again, played by Raffey Cassidy) being primarily raised by Aunt Eleanor and on the precipice of repeating her mother’s mistakes.
The film lays out Celeste’s loss of innocence. First with the school shooting, then, as she is thrust into the world of recording and touring (and alcohol) overseas. She was a young teenager with her too-young-to-really-be-responsible sister and her way-too-skeevy manager (played by Jude Law).
We’ve seen this story many times before (even recently in 2018’s A Star is Born). It never ends well for the siblings or for the client/manager relationship. Set before and after 9/11, Vox Lux also tries to parallel our loss of innocence as a nation.
While the layout is creative and interesting, the characters feel just too over-the-top and melodramatic, with Staten Island accents that just don’t play well. Melanie Griffith worked hard to overcome the accent in Working Girl, you would think that Celeste would have too. But no, her accent seems to get even thicker as she ages, in spite of her travels and experience. Unfortunately, that is the least of the characteristics making grown Celeste uncomfortable for the audience.
In the end, in spite of its flashy, documentary-style filming and timely events, Vox Lux is just not a story that I want to see as a feature film. Celebrities, and in particular, child stars, have been painted across our headlines – first for their look or talent, portrayed as American icons. But then the stresses of the business get to be too much, and they fall into the easily accessible drugs and alcohol, leading their headlines to morph into celebrity gossip.
These headlines and lives gone wrong stories are already given too much spotlight. Natalie, next time try a film that celebrates your career path from childhood actor to A-list star with a successful family (her husband Benjamin Millipied is credited with choreography for Vox Lux). That’s the story we need to see more.
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 7, 2018.