Vox Lux, dir. Brady Corbet, starring Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Raffey Cassidy
A perplexing film to say the least. Vox Lux tells the story of Celeste (Natalie Portman), a young girl who found fame and fortune in the music world after surviving intense psychological and physical tragedy. Her dark past affects every action in her future, leading to her controversial career as a flamboyant performer specialising in electronic pop anthems and glittery purple lips.
The cast is small, but star-studded. Portman plays adult Celeste in possibly her loudest and most ostentatious performance to date. Coupled with Jude Law as her degenerate manager and Raffey Cassidy in the dual role of young Celeste and the singer’s future daughter, the characters are eccentric, likeable and frustrating, but most of all, very memorable. While not her most nuanced performance (my preference goes to Black Swan and Annihilation), Portman hams it up for this role and still manages to play on the heartstrings, as well as providing her own vocals.
Brady Corbet’s film feels experimental and dynamic, a breath of fresh air in a world of traditional three-act structures and action-packed climaxes. The film switches between past and present, mixing up dialogue scenes with voiceovers, film reels, narration and small vignettes, which combine to form an almost psychedelic tone. Despite its fantastic visual storytelling, Vox Lux stumbles on delivering a coherent message, as the film reads as a study of celebrity superiority complexes, the danger (but also psychological needs) of drug use, an existential exploration of mortality, or just a character study of a broken family. However, the opening ten minutes of the film, while timeless, are incredibly relevant to the world we live in today and provide a tragic picture of violence that I dare not spoil.
The climax is most baffling of all, as the titular Vox Lux concert feels incredibly similar to the Live Aid performance in Bohemian Rhapsody. However, due to our unfamiliarity with Celeste’s music when compared to pop culture giants like Mercury, the ending suddenly turns into a gratuitous music video. Despite these drawbacks, Sia’s original songs, stunning visuals and Portman’s all-singing, all-dancing performance are entertaining enough to get your blood pumping and end the film on a high note.
Words by Rachel Denham-White