Vox Lux opens in 1999 to a chilling and graphic school shooting. Celeste is eerily calm and frozen after she watches her music teacher get shot and tries talking to the shooter and offering to pray with him before he opens fire on his classmates in the corner. Though severely injured, Celeste survives and performs at the memorial service with a song that becomes the world’s healing, or glorifying, anthem. Before she knows it, she’s in recording sessions, dance lessons, and traveling the world with the older sister she is really close with and her manager, a stone-cold Jude Law. They explore Europe as her pop career grows, and on the day of 9/11, she sleeps with a rock musician and Ellie sleeps with the manager. As a rift grows between Celeste and Ellie as a result, the narrator claims that Celeste and the world lost their innocence that day, though I would argue Celeste’s innocence was gone the day she was a survivor in a school shooting.
The second chapter features Natalie Portman as a grown-up Celeste, a narcissistic pop diva that loves and despises the attention showered on her. She has a daughter, apparently from a hookup with that rock musician when she was a teenager, even though that scene when she “loses her innocence” was unclear. Having Raffey Cassidy play Celeste in the first chapter and celeste’s daughter in the second was an interesting bold choice, since it was a reminder that the future is very much crafted by the past. A recent terrorist attack across the world made a connection to Celeste by using her famed glittered masks in the attack, though the reason why was never established. In this chapter, Celeste navigates being a mother, exploding when she finds out her daughter had sex, while struggling as an artist making a comeback, giving interviews and press releases the day of her big show back in her hometown. She’s also busy hating her sister, showing just how much their relationship has changed.
After being high and having a massive breakdown in her dressing room, Celeste appears onstage flawless and ready to perform. No one would have guessed she was crying about wanting to be on the top and how mean people could be just minutes before. The concert scene at the end lasted longer than it needed to, and the final lines by the narrator didn’t seem to provide any resolution, just simply claiming how Celeste sold her soul to the devil after she was shot. There is no feel-good ending, just a dark reality about a self-pitying pop star in a world of violence.
Unfortunately, there were many problems with the directing and content of this movie. The strobe lighting and sped-up scenes caused headaches, which I personally found annoying. Their trip to Stockholm was a literal blur, which is probably how it seemed to Celeste and her rise to fame. The painfully screeching score in the first chapter, such as during the ambulance ride behind the opening credits, contrasts sharply with the pop music, which wasn’t catchy even though it was written by Sia, that dominates Celeste’s concert. There never seemed to be a connection between Celeste and Ellie, so their supposed-inseparable childhood and tense relationship in adulthood was hard to believe. The movie did show the pressures of celebrity life, especially if it’s crafted in childhood, and there was also a large emphasis on gun violence, which was important given the state of today’s society. While it implied that there was a relationship between fame and violence, both in the spotlight and also feeding off one another, Vox Lux does not offer much else. None of the characters were likeable, and Celete’s story was not gripping, just tragic in many aspects.