Jong-su bumps into a girl who used to live in the same neighborhood as him, who asks him to look after her cat while on a trip to Africa. When back, she introduces Ben, a mysterious guy she met there, who confesses his secret hobby.
In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend, Lady Sarah, governs the country in her stead. When a new servant, Abigail, arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.
One of the most celebrated war correspondents of our time, Marie Colvin is an utterly fearless and rebellious spirit, driven to the frontline of conflicts across the globe to give voice to the voiceless.
Vox Lux follows the rise of Celeste from the ashes of a major national tragedy to pop super stardom. The film spans 18 years and traces important cultural moments through her eyes, starting in 1999 and concluding in 2017. In 1999, teenage Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) survives a violent tragedy. After singing at a memorial service, Celeste transforms into a burgeoning pop star with the help of her songwriter sister (Stacy Martin) and a talent manager (Jude Law). Celeste's meteoric rise to fame and concurrent loss of innocence dovetails with a shattering terrorist attack on the nation, elevating the young powerhouse to a new kind of celebrity: American icon, secular deity, global superstar. By 2017, adult Celeste (Natalie Portman) is mounting a comeback after a scandalous incident that derailed her career. Touring in support of her sixth album, a compendium of sci-fi anthems entitled Vox Lux, the indomitable, foul-mouthed pop savior must overcome her personal and familial struggles to ...
The sophomore effort from actor turned director (boy is this becoming a trend) Brady Corbet is dying to be inventive. The ambition to break conventions certainly plays as charming, but in the "look at the adorable child ad libbing this karaoke song" brand of charming. His experimenting begins early on with half of the end credits appearing over a long shot documenting a static scene of our protagonist bathing in the tragedy that will ignite the jumpy life events shown later. This is only a couple scenes deep into the movie, and it is also ineffective (partially because there's no apparent intended effect). Even so, this quirk remains the most forgivable of Corbet's decisions.
The voice of Willem Dafoe acts as a Virgil figure narrating Celeste's (Natalie Portman) fortunate misfortunes that led to her pop stardom. Celeste's crucible event occurs in a middle school classroom with musical notations plastered all over the walls. She sits attentive and diligent, eager to be trained by her clarinet-totting teacher. A boy adorned in glam mascara and eclipsed eyes enters, interrupting the roll call with more than words. What follows has been labelled as "birth" by a handy title screen demarcating the film's Act One. Divided into a prologue, two acts, and a finale, we're hardly treated to an essential utilization of the segmented narrative that filmmakers such as Lars von Trier have perfected.
Teenage Celeste is played by the rather mechanical Raffey Cassidy, who also plays (drum roll, kind sir) Celeste's daughter Albertine. This would initially appear as rather cunning way of allowing a substance-dependent adult Celeste to be maternally reminded of her squandered youth and innocence, however, the film makes no effort to support this surrealist reading. In fact it has the gumption to re-use yet another actress once the timeline shifts from 1999 to 2017. Eleanor, Celeste's older sister, is played by the less rigid Stacy Martin both as a teen and a 30 plus year old adult. To recap: Celeste gets to hop into a Natalie Portman body after 18 years, but Eleanor stays put. Much credit to Martin here for differentiating teen from adult in tastefully understated ways; the growth and grime that Celeste shoves her through shines through as adult Eleanor withstands verbal barrages one moment, then caresses her tormentor sister's head backstage in the next.
The young sisters compose a song to perform at a prayer vigil being held for the community torn asunder by the act of evil that has placed Celeste in a neck brace, an accessory that will change into scarfs and chokers as her fame blossoms. Eleanor deserves total writing credits, but Celeste is the one being wheeled out onto the church's stage. Local news recording the vigil cracks open the lid of possibilities, and the sisters have an anthem on their hands once they adjust the lyrics changing "the I's to we's". Immediately (and I mean immediately; no transition) the girls are led into a recording studio by The Manager (Jude Law). This is actually how he is credited, signifying how one-minded he acts in relation to Celeste. He uses all means necessary to build and maintain Celeste's pop royalty. Celeste's father appear once, and his face is obscured nailing in the reality of no parental nurture available to the budding star.
Her legal guardianship is ultimately pushed onto Eleanor, who will also take on that role for Celeste's own daughter. The film plants this as one of several consequences when one decides to sell their image. This act of self-marketing is compared curiously to radical nihilism with Dafoe decoding the film's intent over well executed camcorder montage footage implemented to advance the sister's slide into a vicious cycle of reliance upon one another. Celeste is nothing without Eleanor, completely unstable without her caring touch and intimate knowledge of her sister's greatest curse. Eleanor, however, is entirely supported financially by her hollow sister, and Albertine might be the only daughter she may ever have. All of Eleanor's talent and wisdom isn't stolen by Celeste, but given away freely. Reminiscent of the documentary Whitney revealing the relentless blood pact within the Houston family, the sister's entanglement carries the emotional heft of a film that otherwise blindly stabs at shocking imagery.
I will briefly mention an intriguing reading introduced by the narrator in the film's closing minutes. Without giving any detail, it's one of those scapegoat twilight revelations that can give Corbet an out for some of the issues I have expressed here. Strangely enough, I am grateful for this bit of spice for it allows the mind to wonder, combing through all the previous events. You're encouraged to view them with a surrealist lens, and some devious theory might pop up. This by no means corrects all the prior flaws, but it does allow you to imagine a better film within the otherwise static one that was ultimately delivered. Special mention to the pop songs crafted for Celeste by Sia, providing the vapid lyrical representation of a genre designed "to make people feel happy". What is unknown is that these hit-makers are far from happy.
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