Vox Lux

Directed by American actor and filmmaker Brady Corbet whose 2015 feature film debut The Childhood of a Leader received acclaim at the Venice Film Festival, Vox Lux is a rather unusual movie that I would best describe as an experimental film festival indie movie and is remarkable primarily as a result of the terrific acting performance given by Oscar winner Natalie Portman. Somewhat like a theatrical play, the film is divided into several acts tied together through the narration given by Willem Dafoe, and it follows the rapid rise in fame of the fictitious pop superstar Celeste. We first meet the young Celeste, played by Raffey Cassidy, in the year 1999 as a fourteen-year-old survivor of a school mass shooting who decides to perform a song with her older sister Eleanor, played by Stacy Martin, at a memorial service for the victims. Her beautiful song captures the nation’s heart and almost immediately the two sisters work with an aggressive talent manager played by Oscar-nominated actor Jude Law. The film flashes forward to a point where Celeste begins to become a musical sensation and travels to Stockholm with her sister to work with a famous pop songwriter. After witnessing the erosion of her innocence by attending wild parties with much older men, the major act of the movie takes place in the year 2017 when the now thirtysomething adult Celeste, played by Natalie Portman in a very dedicated role, is trying to stage a comeback tour after a publicity nightmare that took place several years prior and almost destroyed her career. Clearly her success has had a personal toll on her relationship with her previously inseparable sister and has caused her to become a foul-mouthed alcoholic. She even has a teenage daughter named Albertine, also played by Raffey Cassidy, who Celeste is in no state to take care of her and thereby her sister Eleanor has become her guardian. Taking place over the course of an afternoon and evening, the film finally reaches its climax when Celeste performs on stage at a large venue in her native Staten Island. With original songs written by pop musician Sia, Natalie Portman bursts off the screen as a very believable popstar complete with extravagant makeup and costumes while performing a highly choreographed stereotypical pop music performance. Even when she is not on stage using her actual singing voice, Portman is truly mesmerizing by giving a powerful performance as a brash and immature celebrity who never really grew up as a result of the enveloping music world with its highly demanding managers, publicists, and studio executives. Overall, I thought it was perhaps too eccentric of a movie to appeal to most audiences, but it serves as a showcase for the masterful acting of the extremely talented Natalie Portman.

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