A Twenty-First Century Portrait
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brady Corbet|
|Screenplay by||Brady Corbet|
|Music by||Scott Walker|
|Edited by||Matthew Hannam|
Vox Lux: A Twenty-First Century Portrait is a 2018 American drama film directed by Brady Corbet with a screenplay by Corbet from a story by Corbet and Mona Fastvold. It stars Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Raffey Cassidy, Stacy Martin and Jennifer Ehle.
ACT 1: Genesis
In January 2000, a boy named Cullen Active walks into his school in the Staten Island neighborhood of New Brighton, goes to a classroom, and shoots the teacher. A student, 13-year-old Celeste Montgomery, calmly and compassionately talks to Cullen, and offers to pray with him. However, he shoots her in the neck and goes on to shoot other students.
As she slowly recovers from her injury, Celeste and her older sister, Ellie, write music together. Soon after, at an event held in memory of the shooting victims, Celeste sings a song that she and Ellie wrote called "Wrapped Up". The song becomes an instant hit and Celeste is soon picked up by a manager.
Over the next two years, Celeste manages and navigates the increasing pressures of her newfound fame in spite of the past and her injury. She and Ellie indulge in bouts of partying that soon get in the way of Celeste's work, including Celeste having a one-night stand with an older musician and Ellie having sex with the manager the night before the September 11 attacks. However, we see that Celeste continues to successfully rise in the music industry, with her songs getting quickly picked up by the radio and rushing the demand for her first music video, "Hologram (Smoke and Mirrors)".
ACT 2: Regenesis
In 2017, a terrorist shooting on a beach in Croatia is rumored to be linked to Celeste's music due to the masks that the criminals donned, which are similar to the masks from Celeste's "Hologram" video.
Celeste is now 31 years old and preparing for the first night of a concert tour for her sixth album, Vox Lux. Her manager informs her of the terrorist shooting, and then tells her to prepare for the ensuing press junkets. Before her first interview, Celeste takes her teenage daughter, Albertine (conceived from the encounter with the musician), to lunch. Once there, Celeste unveils her erratic and destructive behavior, aided by alcohol, resulting in Celeste and Albertine getting kicked out of the restaurant by the manager. It is revealed here that 6 years prior, Celeste blinded herself in her left eye due to consuming excessive amounts of methanol while binge-drinking household cleaning products. Celeste then drove under the influence, injuring a man in his left leg and pelvis and resulting in a public lawsuit.
After lunch, Celeste has a heated argument with Ellie after finding out Albertine has recently lost her virginity; Ellie has been the one raising Albertine since her birth. The press interviews begin soon after, with Celeste becoming increasingly unhinged after one interviewer mentions the aforementioned driving incident. Her publicist decides to cancel the rest of the interviews scheduled that day and asks Celeste to rest before the concert. However, Celeste and her manager get high on drugs and have sex. That evening, an impaired Celeste heads for the concert venue with her entourage in tow. She then experiences a mental breakdown, with Ellie successfully comforting her before sending her out.
Celeste appears ready for the concert and preps for the stage with her band and background dancers. She then performs multiple songs with elaborate dance numbers involved. It is revealed that after she was shot, Celeste told Ellie that she made a deal with the devil for her life. The movie ends with her manager, Albertine, and Ellie pensively looking on at the facade of a performing Celeste.
- Natalie Portman as Celeste Montgomery
- Raffey Cassidy as Young Celeste Montgomery / Albertine
- Jude Law as The Manager
- Stacy Martin as Eleanor "Ellie" Montgomery, Celeste's older sister
- Jennifer Ehle as Josie, the Publicist
- Willem Dafoe as The Narrator
- Maria Dizzia as Stephanie Dwyer
- Christopher Abbott as The Journalist
- Meg Gibson as Mrs. Montgomery, Celeste's mother
- Daniel London as Father Cliff
- Micheal Richardson as The Musician
- Matt Servitto as Mr. Montgomery, Celeste's father
- Leslie Silva as The Stylist
In August 2016, it was announced Brady Corbet would write and direct the film, with Christine Vachon, David Hinojosa and Brian Young producing the film under their Killer Films and Three Six Zero Group banners respectively. In September 2016, Rooney Mara joined the cast of the film, while Sia was hired to compose original songs for the film. In October 2016, Jude Law joined the cast of the film. In January 2017, Stacy Martin confirmed her involvement in the film. In January 2018, Natalie Portman joined the cast of the film, replacing Mara. In February 2018, Raffey Cassidy joined the cast of the film. In August 2018, it was announced that Sia would be contributing original songs and Scott Walker would be scoring the film. Speaking of his surprise involvement in the film, Willem Dafoe, who narrates the film, stated that “it was a very last-minute thing. I think Brady had another voice in there and he wasn’t quite happy with it, and at the last minute he had the idea to use me to be the narrator — which in terms of actual work isn’t a huge time commitment. It’s an important tonal element and framing device in the film. It’s a kind of go-between with the audience.” Corbet has discussed the challenges of making the film, saying that "nobody asked for it" and he did not make any money from it.
Vox Lux premiered at the 75th Venice International Film Festival on September 4, 2018. It also screened at the 43rd Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2018. Shortly after, Neon acquired distribution rights to the film. It was screened at the 29th New Orleans Film Festival on October 23, 2018. It was released on December 7, 2018.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 61% based on 217 reviews, with an average rating of 6.41/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Intriguing albeit flawed, Vox Lux probes the allures and pitfalls of modern celebrity with sharp intelligence and visual style, all held together by an assured Natalie Portman performance." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 67 out of 100, based on 39 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Guy Lodge of Variety magazine praised Natalie Portman for her performance and called the film "a bold, often brilliant trip through the celebrity spin cycle."
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