Vox Lux Review
Sympathy for the celebrity
Natalie Portman tries for a little A Star is Born glory, with this unusual but not always effective curio in desperate need of some Black Swan magic.From its documentary style to its rather odd Willem Dafoe 'narration' - which sounds more like something you'd expect from an offbeat comedy Wes Anderson film - Vox Lux makes a few daring choices, but few of them actually work. In that respect, it gets kudos for trying but little more, as it struggles to convey a message through the various eclectic forms of style and subterfuge, and relying too heavily on the late-stage entrance of supposed cover-star Natalie Portman to carry the piece alone.
Vox Lux makes a few daring choices, but few of them actually work
The story painstakingly takes us through the tortured childhood of Celeste, who suffers through a horrific life-changing event, and eventually settles on her path towards superstardom, catching up a long time later, when she's a fully-fledged star - arrogant, neurotic, destructive, and delusional, but also disillusioned and outright broken inside.
It's easy to compare to Bradley Cooper's stunning A Star is Born, but actually Vox Lux is an entirely different animal. It feigns documentary, but drifts towards parody, shocking you with some striking opening horror, but then dulling you with the machinations of cold music videos and odd family twists (one actress plays two roles and, whilst a notionally clever idea, the gimmick is ultimately more distracting than effective). The narration is awful - apparently Dafoe was a last-minute addition - and perhaps the most disappointing aspect is the fact that Portman herself is hardly the star in her own show, taking almost half of the runtime to even appear.
It's not deep enough or effective enough, and never better than its opening few scenes, with even Portman unable to fully realise this flawed dream
Emotion and depth are also elusive, with the rekindling of the original tragic events that scarred Celeste a solid angle for tragedy and introspection, but faux reality keeping this observation into celebrity the most traditional aspect of the entire piece - celebrities are just so hard to sympathise with sometimes (it's all to easy to default to the standard, "cry me a river for all your fame and fortune") and Vox Lux tries to be natural about defying that, when it really could do with a little more heart-wrenching drama and theatrical honesty.
There's definitely something to be said for the intention to this story: for all the famous pop-stars and celebrities out there, who take the stage with shock and awe, Vox Lux manages to shine something of a light on what they are really going through, and what they have been through to get there. But it's not enough; not deep enough or effective enough, and never better than its opening few scenes, with even Portman unable to fully realise this flawed dream.
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