Vox Lux

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I struggle to give this a rating that feels appropriate, because Natalie Portman gives a 5 star performance in a 1 star film. 

Brady Corbet is unflinchingly cruel in his visuals. Right from the start we experience a school shooting up close and personal. I don’t know how to aptly explain the tension in the theatre, how unsafe the space began to feel. Later on in the film, there’s a mass shooting on a beach. The footage is played twice. I’ve never heard people shriek in a screening before. 

The tension doesn’t subside until we’re introduced to Portman’s Celeste an hour into the 2 hour psychedelic opera. By this point, we’ve watched her 15 year old self go through the steps of becoming a megastar at way too young an age. Being the only student in the school shooting to survive, 15 year old Celeste resorts to writing and singing pop music to aid in her rehabilitation. 

The problem is that there’s no rehabilitation to be seen. Besides young Celeste’s subtle transformation into a less awkward, more rambunctious version of herself, she doesn’t grow. She is permanently stunted by the schoo shooting. When Portmam is introduced as Celeste at 30, her character is suddenly loud mouthed and obnoxious. I’m not mad at that, I just wish there was an attempt at genuine reflection rather than glaring extremes. 

Corbet is a fresh filmmaker. Vox Lux is beautiful to look at, but horribly painful to listen to. It’s a visceral assault on every single sense. We’re jolted into the film, and serenaded out of it by a full 20 minute Portman concert. Think Björk, but sexier. 

Vox Lux (meaning voice of light, according to Corbet) makes it obvious that it is trying hard to make a statement. In our Q&A, Natalie Portman alleged that both pop stars and terrorists are popularized because of how much attention is paid to them. And I understand that; we all understand that. Corbet needed to engage in more clarity and less provocation to get me to see his film as an important metaphor for life itself.

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