#REVIEW: “VOX LUX”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
Act One of VOX LUX, titled “Genesis”, opens with a horrific and violent act at a high school in Staten Island. After teenager Celeste, a deeply spiritual and talented musician, survives, she sings an original, moving tribute, co-written by her older sister, at a memorial service and her performance becomes viral. A new pop sensation is born due to her stunning voice and sensitive, intelligent songs and lyrics. With help from her sister and with her manager, Celeste conquers the musical globe at first. Then we see cracks beginning to form as she rather quickly spirals into the hedonistic rock and roll world and lives a life abusing alcohol, drugs and indiscriminate sex. Act two, “Regenesis”, opens in the year 2017 and Celeste is back in public eye after a terrorist attack on a beach in Croatia seems to have been inspired by Celeste’s persona. About to release a new album and concert tour after a hiatus from the music industry, the adult Celeste is a mess of huge proportions. A self-absorbed addict who is nasty to everyone around her, which includes a daughter from a sexual tryst when she was still very young, we watch as her world begins to crumble once again.
This is Actor/Director Brady Corbet’s second time helming a feature film and his hyper-stylized vision and flare is impressive and engrossing. It is creatively bombastic. More importantly, he attained a truly memorable performance from Raffey Cassidy (best known for her work in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”) in the dual role as young Celeste and then playing Albertine (the daughter of the older Celeste). They are two distinct characters and Cassidy performs them with accomplished aplomb, one of the Movie’s highlights.
Where VOX LUX falters is Corbet’s inability fully to rein-in Natalie Portman’s acting choices and her performance as Celeste is a vainglorious misstep. She now speaks with an exaggerated New Yawk accent and everything she does on screen feels false: from drinking wine from a supersized plastic cup and straw at a local diner with her daughter to her being too stoned to perform at her concert. Corbet perhaps lets her run too much with her processes and intuitions. Corbet manages to get even less from Stacy Martin as the older sister (so great in “Le Redoutable”) and Jude Law as the manager, but those roles were underwritten and borderline clichéd.
The Movie ends with Celeste in concert and here is where Portman and Corbet shine! There is a Documentary vibe around this Final Act. The songs, all written by pop genius Sia, are performed with gusto and exhilarating dance dance moves (choreographed by Natalie Portman’s husband Benjamin Millepied). Spellbinding is the best word to describe what Portman delivers on screen late.
VOX LUX is a nice addition to a current onslaught of Rock Musicals.
Elevation Pictures release VOX LUX Friday, December 14, 2018.