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With: Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Raffey Cassidy, Stacy Martin, Jennifer Ehle, Maria Dizzia, Christopher Abbott, Meg Gibson, Daniel London, Micheal Richardson, Matt Servitto, Leslie Silva, Willem Dafoe (narrator)
Written by: Brady Corbet
Directed by: Brady Corbet
MPAA Rating: R for language, some strong violence, and drug content
Running Time: 110
Date: 12/07/2018

Vox Lux (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Voice Activation

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This drama set in the pop music world has plenty to say, but isn't perhaps quite sure just what; yet Portman's nervy performance, the dazzling cinematography, and haunting music, make it worth a look.

In Vox Lux, it's the year 2000, and teen Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) is in music class when a teen gunman enters, kills the teacher, and shoots Celeste. She survives, but has a bullet lodged in her spine and must take pain medication for life. At a memorial service, along with her sister Ellie (Stacy Martin), she performs a moving song that becomes a popular anthem. Celeste finds a manager (Jude Law) and embarks upon a new career as a pop star, simply hoping to make people happy.

On the day of the 9/11 attacks, Celeste catches Ellie in bed with the manager, and changes her outlook forever. In 2017, she prepares for the first show of a big new tour, talking to journalists, trying to spend quality time with her daughter, and fighting her own inner demons. Can she continue to do what she was born to do?

Written and directed by actor-turned-filmmaker Brady Corbet, Vox Lux is very much an anti-A Star Is Born, showing the dark side of showbiz, wherein virtually nothing is sacred. The movie more or less places pop music side-by-side with brutal acts of terrorism. A gunshot wound kickstarts Celeste's career, and another violent attack kickstarts her latest big show, although, when Celeste takes the stage in the movie's colorful final act, it's ultimately not entirely clear what the movie meant to say by all this.

In the movie's second half, Portman gets to rage, cajole, break down, get high, be indignant, be fabulous, and be a star so big that she claims to be the "new testament." She puts on a tough New York accent and a lot of swagger. Corbet's camera smoothly glides behind her as she struts into certain situations and staggers out of others; though darker, the style here is weirdly similar to that of A Star Is Born.

The music by the moody genius Scott Walker, and pop songs written by the wonderful Sia, crystalize Vox Lux, making it sound serious and authentic. When it's over, you may not be sure what you've just seen, but you'll know you've definitely seen something.

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