Vox Lux Movie Review
Divas are divas in Vox Lux, a weird drama about an out-of-control pop star who also survived an extremely traumatic experience.
Raffey Cassidy and Natalie Portman star as young and old Celeste respectively in this non-romantic version of A Star is Born that will make you want to slit your wrists. If you can make it through the film’s opening minutes—and, seriously, not everyone will—you’ll watch as a teen girl inadvertently turns tragedy into an opportunity to launch a singing career. If you thought Lady Gaga’s character sells out in that other 2018 film about musical stardom, at least she doesn’t grow up to become an obnoxious alcoholic and drug addict like she does here.
That said, rarely has Portman been so bold and unnerving. So there’s that.
But Vox Lux, written and directed Brady Corbet, is more of a movie that exists than it is one that elicits any type of real emotion. Yes, the opening minutes are hard to watch, but when observed in the greater picture they are merely a means to an end—and an odd means to end that simply contribute to Vox Lux’s baffling ability to remain elusive as to what its purpose is.
The drama is about tragedy, but really it’s about a pop star who understandably has some issues and self-medicates by drinking, snorting cocaine, and being an asshole. She teeters on the edge of being something worse, but Vox Lux rarely seems willing to dig below the surface. Bad stuff happens, Celeste’s career kicks off, and then she’s a pop star who has bad habits but can still crank out a tune when she needs to.
Vox Lux has an alluring aspect to it that keeps you intrigued throughout, but ultimately the film is a false promise. Portman is solid, as is Cassidy (though Corbet confusingly uses her again to play her own daughter later on in the film), but neither performance is able to elevate the middling material. The rest of the cast, most notably Jude Law, is wasted, and then there’s that weird decision to use Willem Dafoe to narrate Celeste’s life throughout the film.
Vox Lux has its moments, but in the end it’s a misfire, a movie that uses tragedy and character study to no real effect.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.