Spencer Kain’s review published on Letterboxd:
“They wanted a show, I gave them a show.”
And what a show indeed. VOX LUX is like A STAR IS BORN after an anxiety fueled manic episode.
I’ll get the negatives out of way first because this was such an abrasive, sinister film I really want to just focus on the positive. However, there are some bumps along the way in terms of the way it’s executed especially in the middle of the film, and some of the narration seems to want to spoon feed the audience into what they should be thinking when it should let us decide how we want to perceive the things going on onscreen. But, the way writer/director Brady Corbet paints this picture of pop stardom is such a fascinating portrait, I can forgive the film for its very minor flaws.
Natalie Portman is not only one of my favorite actresses of all time, she’s easily one of the greatest of all time, too. With each performance she gives us she seems to only be improving upon her craft. It feels like with each new performance she is maintaining some shreds of past performances in her. I could see Nina from BLACK SWAN in Celeste and you can argue with me here, but I even see some of Jackie Kennedy from JACKIE here with Celeste and how she deals with tragedy juxtaposed to how Celeste deals with it. But it never feels as if she is stuck in the performances and can’t get out of them, it only seems as if she’s brought them along with her to boost up the new characters she plays. It’s fascinating and a true testament to Portman’s talent.
Celeste is defined by the tragedy she survived through and her characterization throughout the film is shown by this. Those opening 15 minutes are some of the most harrowing I’ve ever seen because I found myself grasping onto the arm rests of my seat the entire time because it spiked my anxiety. However, it was damn effective. What’s even better is that sense of unease lasted through the entire film.
I can definitely see why this film is so divisive. It is absolutely not for everyone but I’m very glad I’m one of the few it seems that this worked for. I really haven’t gotten it out of my head ever since I’ve seen it. It’s an unholy movie that digs deep into your psyche and refuses to leave. I want to see more of what Brady Corbet is going to do because if it’s anything like VOX LUX, he has a promising career ahead of him albeit a disturbing one. If you haven’t seen this, and despite if you may like it or not, I can honestly say to give it a chance because it might win you over.