Vox Lux will likely go down as one of the year’s most invigorating and perplexing films. I will not pretend that I understood it completely, I am sure I missed several things in the layered symbolism, but I loved the sheer experience of it all. Whether it was the ominous undercurrent that flows throughout or the vibrant concert footage that closes the film, director Brady Corbet provides plenty to chew on.
After surviving a horrible tragedy, teenage Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) and Eleanor (Stacy Martin) expressed their emotions about the event in a song that ended up becoming the anthem for a nation. Years after that song launched her career, a 31-year-old Celeste (Natalie Portman) is about to release her sixth studio album and headline a world tour. Now with a teenage daughter of her own (played by Cassidy), Celeste struggles to navigate the responsibilities of motherhood, her career, and her tenuous relationships with Eleanor and her long-time manager (Jude Law). Things are further complicated for the pop star when news surfaces that a terrorist attack overseas may have been inspired by one of Celeste’s music videos.
Guided by Willem Dafoe’s playfully dark narration, Corbet crafts a mesmerizing exploration of our obsession with stardom. Whether it is the way we admire branding over artistry, or make celebrities out of murderers, the film is both unsettling and captivating.
Is Vox Lux a commentary on how we are too quick to blame pop culture, in this case music, rather than confront the real issue that cause school shootings and terrorist attacks? Or does the link between how Celeste’s career being born out of violence carry greater significance? Is it jealousy that fuels Celeste’s harsh treatment of Eleanor or the darkness associated with the loss of innocence? These are just some of the numerous questions one will have after watching the film.
While Vox Lux does not provide any easy answers, it is a hell of a lot of fun trying to decipher what it all means.