Vox Lux (2018), (♦♦♦½)


At fourteen years of age, young Celeste experiences a school tragedy that nearly cost her life. During the healing process, both Eleanor, Celeste’s older sister, and Celeste make use of their musical talent to channel their pain into a cathartic song that becomes an anthem in the wake of a greater national tragedy. The sisters are approached by a talent agent who guide them through the complicated process of recording music and delivering a polished product to the masses. Celeste grows beyond her years, soon eclipsing her sister and leaving her behind.

Vox Lux is a chronicle in three acts—four, if one counts the shocking and all too real prelude—with an unusual narrative format. It unfolds like a documentary at times, as much about the times we live in, as about the life of a fictional pop diva on her not-so-straight path to stardom. The voice over, courtesy of Willem Dafoe, and occasional dizzying show of lights, complete the illusion.

Vox Lux is an ambitious character study—with a massacre or two—on the pitfalls of a life in the spotlight and of growing up too fast in an environment ripe with drugs, adoration, and hardly any personal accountability. It is also a study on the prize of fame and what people are willing to give or take in return for it.

While I don’t think that Natalie Portman in the role of Celeste is on the same level as her work in Black Swan—I wasn’t a fan of Jackie—, she is very magnetic in her highs as much as in her lows; compellingly credible too as an out of control, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, pop diva. The scenes of the concert, during the final act, is Portman at her finest. She looks and feels like a bona fide pop star, said to do her own singing, and some numbers are catchy enough to take a life of their own.
At least three supporting characters share their moments (big or small) in the spotlight as Celeste’s support system, especially Jude Law (Celeste’s manager), Stacy Martin (Eleanor, Celeste’s sister, who shares her younger sister’s musical talent but was left behind in Celeste’s path to stardom), and Raffey Cassidy in a double role as young Celeste and Celeste’s daughter, Albertine. Despite their very good supporting roles, Vox Lux very much belongs to Natalie Portman. It is her character’s story and her movie, no doubt about it. Portman deserves the nominations or possible Best Actress awards that may come her way this coming award season.

Comments

  1. Natalie Portman is a very talented actress. I can't recall ever having seen her give a bad performance. Of course, I haven't seen all of her work, but still...

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    1. I have seen most of her work and almost all is consistently good, but from Black Swan she has been "otherworldly" good, plus she is taking her time to choose roles that suit her.

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  2. Wow Carmen: did you see Vox Lux at the theater? That movie just came out. Portman looks like she'd make a good diva. I look forward to seeing it. Portman's taken on some big roles as of late.

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    1. Yes, at the theater, just yesterday. :-) I wanted to be the first in this corner of the blogosphere to see it and review it. I also saw two more movies that I will be reviewing on Monday. I felt that since I don't go to the cinema during the year--it's been years, actually--, perhaps I could afford to watch the releases in contention for the awards. This year I won't be releasing a "Best Movies of the Year" list since there are still so many that I haven't seen this year that I would like to before the Oscars come and go.

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  3. So why only 3.5 stars? It sounds like you liked it quite well. Anyway, I somehow did not even know what this one was about. Now I do, I will see it, and thanks!

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    1. I liked one out the three I saw at the cinema better. This one is not exactly the kind of movie one loves. It's well done, very well acted, but too unsettling for its own sake.

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  4. Not quite sure if I want to see this one or not - although I do really like Portman. Maybe I'll wait until I'min the right sort of mood.
    Lynn :D

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    1. Like I said above, it's an unsettling experience, all the more because the violence portrayed so realistically has become common place in modern life, at least in the U.S. Not the kind of movie one loves but worth watching for Portman's performance if nothing else.

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