Natalie Portman in Vox Lux.
Natalie Portman in Vox Lux.

Vox Lux

by / Dec. 18, 2018 6pm EST

If you’ve been looking forward to seeing this new Natalie Portman movie that has been getting a heavy art house push in the cities where that kind of thing matters, you may be surprised to learn that it’s already here, dumped into one local suburban multiplex last weekend with no advance notice.

Audience interest is presumably keyed to a storyline rooted in a school shooting and an ad campaign that makes it look like one of those rock fantasies of the 1970s or 1980s. (I thought of Hazel O’Connor in Breaking Glass.). Sad to say, it’s an uneven mess narratively, a blurry meditation on fame. (The tagline “a 21st century portrait” is one of several pretensions it sports.)

The film is constructed in two parts, telling of the rise, fall, and attempted comeback of a singer whose initial success is tied to a terrorist attack that shocks the nation. The first half, featuring Raffey Cassidy in the lead role, is somewhat gripping, but the second, with Portman as an older (and utterly unsympathetic) version of the character, is very poorly thought out. Portman tries her best as the extremely unlovable pop star, but the two Brits in lead roles steal the most attention: Cassidy, who also plays Portman’s daughter in the second half, and Jude Law with a very New Yawk accent as her manager.

Filmmaker Brady Corbet spoke after a Manhattan screening I attended over the weekend, but the 30-year-old couldn’t really explain what he was after by way of a message, other than that he was attempting something timely and relevant. No questions from the audience were permitted. (Portman was also there, escorted by two bodyguards, presumably to ward off questions and hecklers annoyed at her public comments on Israeli government policies and her decision to turn down that country’s Genesis Prize.)

I wouldn’t go for the all-too-obvious “Vox Lux sux,” but it’s a political film that has no idea what its political stance is regarding gun violence, fame in “the current climate,” or basically anything that it pretends to comment on.