★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
The rise to fame is a polarizing rise. It can be a wondrous experience, or a terrifying experience that only looks wondrous. And even if you may have the best intentions, down the road, those intentions will be misconstrued.
Vox Lux, while a messy film, is a solid look at the rise of a pop star. Set in 1999 & 2017, & narrated by The Narrator (played by Willem Dafoe), the film follows Celeste Montgomery (played as a young adult by Raffey Cassidy & as an adult by Natalie Portman), a 13-year-old girl at a private school in New York. Celeste lives a pretty normal life for a 13-year-old girl. She always sticks with her older sister, Eleanor, AKA Ellie (played by Stacy Martin).
One day, a student comes into the school armed with an assault rifle & kills multiple students & faculty. Celeste is one of the wounded, & Ellie was not at school that day. After going through hospital care & physical therapy, Celeste & Ellie perform a song they wrote together at a candlelight vigil. The song is titled Wrapped Up. Although it was performed at a vigil, the song shoots its way to the top of the charts. Eventually, Celeste gets a record deal, & hires The Manager (played by Jude Law), a passionate but arrogant man, while also being surrounded by her publicist Josie (played by Jennifer Ehle). In the midst of a short while, Celeste has gone from an ordinary young adult to a extraordinary pop star.
In 2017, Celeste is now 31, & although she is still a successful pop star, she is now very contentious, & the past few years have been marred by scandal. She is now at odds with Ellie, & she is far away most of the time from her 14-year-old daughter, Albertine (played by Raffey Cassidy). However, The Manager & Josie are still by her side. Celeste is about to release her sixth album, Vox Lux, which she says is an album about rebirth populated by sci-fi anthems. But when a terrorist attack in Europe indirectly involves her, Celeste must push to bring herself back into the spotlight with a massive concert in New York.
The cast is fantastic. Natalie Portman gives one of her best performances. Jude Law is terrific. Raffey Cassidy is a revelation. Stacy Martin is amazing. Jennifer Ehle is excellent. And Willem Dafoe provides superb narration.
Brady Corbet's direction is great. Although Corbet tries to juggle a bit too much, I admire his ambitious nature & his sense of visual style.
The screenplay by Brady Corbet & Mona Fastvold is very good. Although the plot starts to crack further on in the film, & the characterization outside of Celeste, The Manager & Ellie is a bit thin, the sharp dialogue is tremendous.
Lol Crawley's cinematography is glorious. Crawley's camerawork is picturesque, led by several wondrous long-takes.
And the soundtrack is phenomenal. Featuring songs by Sia, the pop songs sound authentic, & are also extremely catchy.
This is a good film about the rise to fame. It's definitely flawed, but it has enough gas in the tank to make it worthwhile.
Vox Lux was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Saturday, December 15, 2018. It is currently in 5 theaters in the Detroit area: the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI; the AMC Livonia 20 in Livonia, MI; the MJR Southgate Digital Cinema 20 in Southgate, MI; the Rave Cinemas Ann Arbor 20 in Ypsilanti, MI; & the State Theatre in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 114 minutes, & it is rated R for language, some strong violence, & drug content.