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MOVIES: (LFF 2018) Vox Lux - Review

If A Star is Born was a crowd pleasing look into the rise of a world-famous musician from nowhere, Vox Lux is very much the opposite, alienating audiences and shocking them into silence, opening with a bloody and brutal school-shooting that will leave people stunned. It's a hard subject for any film to cover tactfully and Brady Corbet doesn't shy away from the grisly details. It's safe to say that Vox Lux is not going to be a comfort film, but it will stick with you, for good and for ill.

The film spans several years, splitting back and forth between 1991 and the present day as we follow Celeste, who became a hit at a young age. We catch up with her several years later in 2017 where she's now played by Natalie Portman after a longer than expected turn for Raffey Cassidy playing her younger self (and then in the present, Celeste's now teenage daughter). Celeste is a strong, outspoken figure who is not without controversy of her own, and Portman manages to get the best out of her character.

What the film works best at is its deconstruction of a pop star and how fame coupled with a past tragedy takes its toll on a character. The constant attention in the media spotlight is ever present throughout the film, and Celeste takes the brunt of it. Corbet captures what it's like to be in her head and to feel isolated and alone. Having a child at a young age has taken its toll, as her relationship with both her sister and her daughter. It's interesting that the film decides to paint Celeste as this incredibly flawed character, and as a result feels a lot more realistic than other attempts in the past that sometimes glorify the world of pop music.

If you're expecting a glorified look into the world of pop music this is not your film. The drama is hard-hitting, with plenty of emotional moments that get the best out of both Portman and Cassidy. Jude Law doesn't quite get as much screentime as what could have benefited his character, but Vox Lux has been the Portman show, or rather - the Celeste show.

Despite focusing on Cassidy for Act 1, it never feels like a prologue. The transition from a younger Celeste to an adult Celeste comes at a natural point story-wise, even if it is at the same time a tad frustrating as the audience would like to spend longer with her charactr. The decision to cast Cassidy in a dual role really works, as we get to see how fame affects both mother and daughter, and their relationship which is a key part of the second half of the film.

What's interesting to note is how much of an emphasis Vox Lux puts on its concert scenes. With music written by Sia, you know the songs are going to be catchy pop beats and they rarely dissapoint. But what surprised me the most was just how long the key concert sequence went on for, very much extravagant and very much a unique way of ending a film. It feels almost too glamorous compared to the ugly side of fame that we saw brought to the table beforehand.

Vox Lux will be a polarising film but one's thing for sure, it has plenty of staying power. You won't forget this anytime soon, even if you didn't like it.

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