Director: Brady Corbet
Vox Lux comes from actor/director Brady Corbet. It’s the 30-year-old’s second full-length feature and it’s something of a Sunset Blvd. for the me/#metoo generation; a 21st century masterpiece.
Spanning 1999-2017 and narrated – brilliantly, exacerbating the fable-like quality of it – by Willem Dafoe, the film tells the coming of age and then comeback of Celeste Montgomery. Played as a teenager by Raffey Cassidy and then as an adult by Natalie Portman, Celeste survives a school-shooting tragedy to become an overnight sensation thanks to her memorial song.
We watch her pushed and pulled through the industry with a brilliant slime-role for Jude Law as the manager.
When we meet Celeste again in the film’s second act she is thoroughly unlikeable. Smug, entitled, desperate to retain (or regain) fame. And Portman alternates swagger and insouciance as her Celeste, a teen mum made over now as a Gaga-esque stadium pop star must once again negotiate national tragedy; must be seen to be a knowing responder all the while capitalising on it.
This is a film about the ugliness and loneliness of celebrity and the weird lure of fame. It is a film about the millennial world and the soullessness of it. Wisely it has been created and acted out by people that know that world and pain. This isn’t about blaming previous generations – it’s about observing and trying to understand the madness of this current world.
Brilliantly, Sia writes the songs for Portman and Cassidy to perform. Sia’s songs are another star in this film – there’s something knowing here too, given Sia has been in this role forever, the songwriting that hides within the songs.
Scott Walker’s score is another crucial element.
And Corbet’s direction is sublime. He’s disgusted by the modern world but he’s made a thoroughly modern film – technically assured, sometimes dazzling but with story to the fore and plenty of spaces between the words; plenty of ghost-notes.
When Portman’s Celeste performs the songs – giving an actual show and dance – it seems to sum up the vacuity of it all; we forgive the dismal things she says and the way she goes about saying them for a moment close to her and her songs, no matter how meaningless it all might be.
Rats in a cage. All of us.
Vox Lux is compelling, profound. My favourite film in some time.
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