Unsettling, ironic, bitter, a little bit mysterious: Writer-director Brady Corbet’s second feature is either a scathing satire on celebrity, American violence and the dismaying symbiotic intersection of the two, or a gloss on the constant cultural churn from innocence—in an art form, here pop music; in a technology, here how pop music gets to our ears—to decadence. When she was a teen, in 1999, Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) endured a tragedy, and transformed her pain into a lovely, gentle anthem of suffering and survival that touched the nation, and launched her career as a pop star. In 2017, Celeste (Natalie Portman, unforgettably rageful) is attempting a comeback after more disaster in her life. But her childhood charm is now the spikiness of a burnt-out cynic. Vox Lux’s two segments almost feel like two different movies—1999’s soft, 2017’s harsh. Corbet’s preference for jagged heightened reality, sometimes to the point of stiltedness (there’s a documentary-style narrator) is a challenge to our empathy. Which is kind of the point: His movie is itself part of the pop culture he wants us to reconsider.
Director: Brady Corbet
Producer: Andrew Lauren, D.J. Gugenheim, Michel Litvak, Svetlana Metkina, David Litvak, Brian Young, Gary Walters, Robert Salerno, Christine Vachon, David Hinojosa, Joshua Throne, Mark Gillespie, Ron Curtis, Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Sia
Cast: Natalie Portman, Raffey Cassidy, Jude Law, Stacy Martin, Christopher Abbott, Maria Dizzia, Meg Gibson, Daniel London, Micheál Richardson, Matt Servitto, Leslie Silva, Jennifer Ehle and Willem Dafoe