Pros: an attempt to show a collective image of a pop star Cons: Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy unsuccessfully illustrate the same character at different ages; the use of voiceover does not help to understand the heroine; poor disclosure of the tragedy from the backstory of Vox Lux / Vox Lux
Directed by Brady Corbet
Starring Natalie Portman (Celeste), Raffey Cassidy (Young Celeste/Albertine), Jude Law (manager), Stacy Martin (Eleanor), Jennifer Ehle (Josie), Meg Gibson (Celeste’s mother), Willem Dafoe (voice of narrator) and etc.
Bold Films, Killer Films, Andrew Lauren Productions (ALP)
Year of release 2018 (in Ukraine 2019)
The film “Vox Lux” was directed by the young actor Brady Corbet. Before that, he starred in independent films and worked with Lars von Trier in the film Melancholia. At some point, Corbet wanted to start directing himself. At first he even succeeded. Brady took Jean-Paul Sartre’s story and based it on the historical drama The Childhood of a Leader. For this work he was awarded festival film awards, which inspired him to new directorial heights.
Brady Corbett wrote the script for Vox Lux himself. It didn’t work out too well for him, to put it mildly. Although it is possible to understand what he wanted to say – the main character of the film became a collective image of pop stars who gained fame in their teens, which left an indelible imprint on them.
So, at the center of the film is teenager Celeste. In 1999, she survived the terror – one of the students at her school opened fire, as a result of which many people were injured. After the tragedy, Celeste and her sister wrote a song about what happened. Unexpectedly for Celeste, people paid attention to her and began to sympathize with her story. Quite quickly the girl got a manager, her own album and video. As a child, she gained access to parties and alcohol, which affected her life. Almost 20 years later, Celeste found herself captive to addictions, scandals and her own inability to communicate with her daughter.
“Vox Lux” is divided into three chapters, symbolizing different stages in the heroine’s life. The film also features a voiceover that fills in plot gaps and explains what is happening to Celeste. The narrator is Willem Dafoe, whom we will not hear due to voice acting. In addition to the chronicle, he reads out completely awkward comments created for a better understanding of the central character.
It’s almost impossible to discern Celeste’s emotions in her youth (the narrator doesn’t help much in this matter either). Her adolescence is portrayed by actress Raffey Cassidy (who also plays Celeste’s daughter in the future), who either shows deliberate apathy or simply does not know how to convey her experiences on camera. One could turn a blind eye to this if the plot were not built around a terrorist attack that changed the singer’s life – it is very surprising to see the main character of the film who survived a tragedy, for whom what happened means absolutely nothing.
But there is something worse in the film. These are completely disparate versions of the heroine as a teenager and as an adult. Natalie Portman, who portrays Celeste in modern times, is nothing like Raffey Cassidy. Naturally, the adult Celeste is a reflection of the consequences of the life of a star. Now she is dominated by ignorance, delusions of grandeur and aggression, but even so, there must be at least something in the heroine that reminds her of years past. Unfortunately, there is no such thing. Before us is just another person.
Natalie Portman looks much better in more intellectual roles, where she can reveal her talent. In Vox Lux, the actress looks somewhat awkward, trying to pass herself off as a show business star. Stage outfits don’t suit her at all, and Portman’s defiant behavior, typical of singers, is associated with antics. The director of the film wanted the audience to recognize well-known pop singers in the image of Celeste. You can catch his idea, but looking at its implementation is somehow painful.
Also in the film is Jude Law, who plays a typical manager. He is both a bad and a good character who will not get his own story, but will only flash in the frame. In the same way, the director uses actress Stacy Martin, who plays the role of the main character’s sister. She has something to say, because she is openly being used, but for some reason the script doesn’t bother with it.
But “Vox Lux” gets the longest scene of Celeste performing on stage. Despite the fact that the songs for the film were written by Sia, and Natalie Portman aggressively worked with the backup dancers, this is one of the worst episodes in the film (and perhaps among other films dedicated to musicians).
Still, there are better dramas about the difficulties that any artist faces. Of the latter, this is “A Star Is Born,” which is remembered by many for its music and romantic line. And also the more naive film “Teen Spirit,” which shows the price of fame and the temptations behind the scenes. “Vox Lux” is devoid of charm, high-quality compositions and a well-developed dramatic script.
“Vox Lux” tries to show the burden of fame that falls on the artist’s shoulders, but the main character does not evoke empathy.