Film Review: VOX LUX (USA 2018) ***1/2

Vox Lux Poster
Trailer

An unusual set of circumstances brings unexpected success to a pop star.

Director:

Brady Corbet

Writer:

Brady Corbet

VOX LUX is a depressing life story of a pop artist that is credible and realistic by writer/director Brady Corbet aided by the spirited performance of Academy Award Winner Natalie Portman and by Jude Law who plays her nasty and suspicious manager. 

As in her Oscar winning BLACK SWAN where she plays an artist in the form of a ballet dancer, Portman now plays pop singer/dancer who has risen to fame despite seismic, violent circumstances.  Still she spirals downwards but there is a silver lining in every cloud.

The film begins in 1999 with teenage sisters Celeste Montgomery (Raffey Cassidy, last seen  in THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER) and Eleanor “Ellie” Montgomery (Stacy Martin), surviving a seismic and violent tragedy.  The tragedy unfolds like a shock, and therefore will not be revealed in this review to prevent a full movie experience.  Director Corbet  clearly has the intention of this effect for his audience.  The sisters compose and perform a song about their experience, making something lovely and cathartic out of catastrophe.  This launches their  singing careers.  The sisters draw the attention of a passionate manager with no-name (Jude Law) and are rapidly catapulted into fame and fortune, with Celeste as the star and Ellie the creative anchor.  By the film’s second half, the film shifts to a 2017 setting. The now 31-year-old Celeste (Natalie Portman) is mother to a teenage daughter of her own (again played by Raffey Cassidy) and struggling to navigate a career fraught with scandals when another act of terrifying violence (again not revealed) demands her attention.

VOX LUX is the name of one of Celeste’s album.  The life of Celeste follows the route of many a singer/songwriter (like Amy Winehouse) whose documentaries have already been seen by many.  The story of a star’s downfall (as in the recent A STAR IS BORN) is a depressing all too familiar one that many will avoid, especially during the festive season.  But director Corbet inserts an lively entertaining dance number at the climax for the purpose of lifting spirits.  It works!

The film is narrated by Willem Dafoe (immediately recognizable) who has been doing a lot of narrating recently since DO DONKEYS ACT?  The voiceover is supposed to put the story into perspective and keep it there as opinions can change.  Like DO DONKEYS ACT? Defoe put-on touch of sarcasm into the proceedings.

Despite the sombre nature of the film’s material there are a few bright moments.  One is the message that has an aside.  During Celeste’s down period, she says to her audience: “This girl will never go down!”   Director Corbet also inserts a very lively dance sequence during the film’s climax which showcases Portman’ versatility as an artist.  Yes, this girl can sing and dance.

Because of the shocking incidents affecting Celeste’s life, her ups and downs and the parallel rise of her daughter’s singing career, VOX LUX feels a bit disjointed.  But director Corbet knows what he is doing and brings his film to a satisfying conclusion at the end.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxdVqr4hmZU

1997 Movie Review: WILDE, 1997 – Starring: Stephen Fry, Jude Law

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WILDEWILDE, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by Brian Gilbert

Cast: Stephen Fry, Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Sheen, Tom Wilkinson, Gemma Jones, Jennifer Ehle, Judy Parfit
Review by Stefan Leverton

SYNOPSIS:

The story of Oscar Wilde, genius, poet, playwright and the First Modern Man. The self-realisation of his homosexuality caused Wilde enormous torment as he juggled marriage, fatherhood and responsibility with his obsessive love for Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed Bosie. After legal action instigated by Bosie’s father, the mad Marquess of Queensberry, Wilde refused to flee the country and was sentenced to two years at hard labour by the courts of an intolerant Victorian society.

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REVIEW:

Wilde is the biopic telling the infamous story of Oscar Wilde, one of Ireland’s and the Victorian era’s greatest playwright and poet. Above that he represented the rise in the appreciation for all things aesthetic, fashion and style as well as being one of the wittiest historical figures that I can think of. His life wasn’t all plaudits though, and he courted controversy to the full.

The film begins with Wilde returning from America, marrying Constance Wilde and having two boys, Cyril and Vyvyan. Then it begins, not wanting to over-state anything, his rise and fall. Taking the theatre world by storm, Wilde’s plays illuminate the west end and he becomes the toast of the town. With an invigorated zeal for socialising, Wilde acquaints himself with all the lavishness his success affords him.

This ignites a spark within Wilde, especially after becoming familiar with Robbie Ross. After their meeting Wilde’s ‘outs’ himself amongst the homosexual community, and in doing so becomes the person he may’ve always known he was. Then the shift moves from his work to his personal life. An intense affair rises between Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed Bosie. Bosie is drawn to the artful and wise Wilde, while Wilde is drawn to the youthful pretty Bosie.

Their relationship has its ups and downs, mainly due to Bosie’s impetuousness, but ultimately has its dramatic anchor in the film as in Wilde’s life by being the scandal that brought shame upon Wilde’s family and indeed his professional reputation. Bosie’s father, the Mad Marquess of Queensberry, files a lawsuit against Wilde and his lewd illegal behaviour.

The ensuing court case, is widely publicised and the witch hunt that surrounds it sees the steadfast Wilde prosecuted for his actions and sentenced to four years hard labour after refusing to take exile. Then we witness Wilde’s decline, removed of his style in gaol. Even on his release when he takes refuge in Europe his healthy withers and Wilde dies resolute but very much alone in Paris, 1900.

As a fan of Wilde’s work, I feel this film does tremendous justice to the man, played with sheer perfection by Stephen Fry. Fry said of the role that it was the one he was born to play, and he is in no way over stating that fact. And the filmmakers have done a wonderful job of adding to the creation by giving Fry just the right appearance as a young-twenty-something but also as the broken-aged-man Wilde becomes during his incarceration. And special mention should go to Jude law who, aside from looking good in the role, acts as a great folly to Wilde, being that they are at different stages of their lives.

The only criticism of the film is that those who aren’t familiar with Wilde may struggle to be enraptured by the drama of the film which never really peaks. I think that to be slightly mis-guided as Wilde himself fully understood what was going on, there was no outrage from him, though he did stand resolutely and argued his case to spite all that, though sadly without success. What stands is the memory of such outrageous persecution from the justice system and society to persecute someone, when today that wouldn’t even enter the consciousness.

WILDE, 1997

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