Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Stacy Martin, Jennifer Ehle, Willem Dafoe (voice)
Natalie Portman delivers a sensational performance as a pop diva in Brady Corbet’s follow-up to his feature directorial debut, The Childhood of a Leader. An audacious, jaggedly cynical commentary on the nature of celebrity culture in America, Vox Lux also delivers a wider review of two decades of the country’s recent history.
In 1999: teenager Celeste (Raffey Cassidy), a survivor of a high school shooting, performs a song composed with her sister (Stacy Martin) at a memorial for her murdered classmates and in so doing, captures the attention of a manager (Jude Law), who sets her on the path to fame.
Years later, the now adult Celeste (Portman, with her own daughter now played by Cassidy) is a Gaga-esque global superstar; but so wounded and jaded by the corporate machinery of the music business that she has become an entirely different animal – a hard-nosed 21st century brand. Burying her neuroses in the toxic excesses of her increasingly artificial world, she is struggling to stage a career rebirth despite personal problems and a scandal that refuses to die.
Corbet is exploring fame as a type of violence, one of many he depicts, and there is rich enjoyment to be had in his study of the contrasts between celebrity and isolation, artifice and art, the nihilistic and the humane. Featuring a magnificent score from Scott Walker and songs by Sia, plus arch narration from Willem Dafoe that sets the action at a cool remove, Vox Lux reveals him anew as one of the most dynamic contemporary American filmmakers and offers a stunning showcase for Portman, who evinces a jaw-dropping confidence and elan as the imperious Celeste.