Stars: Natalie Portman, Raffey Cassidy, Jude Law, Stacy Martin
Actor turned director Brady Corbet’s audacious but flawed second picture is a pop fable that feels like a mutant riff on ‘A Star is Born’. A chilling 1999-set opening depicts a school shooting incident in Staten Island NY, in which several pupils lose their lives. Thirteen-year-old Celeste (Cassidy) is one of those spared. The subsequent performance of a song she wrote at a commemorative service launches her into a pop career. Jump forward to the present day where Celeste (Portman) is a hard-bitten, brassy electopop diva and mother of one, sporting spangled bodysuits and, curiously, a far stronger Staten Island accent. Following a druggy dissolute period, she is preparing for a tour to launch her comeback album Vox Lux. Then news comes in of a horrific shooting in Croatia, the perpetrators dressed as characters from one of Celeste’s videos. The script suffers from a surfeit of ideas and semi-realised themes, while the superfluous narration from Willem Dafoe is plain pretentious, but it boasts some stunningly stark photography as well as a memorably schizophrenic soundtrack, in which the late, great Scott Walker’s belligerently brassy score features next to a collection of pop bangers from Sia. Portman is a fearless force of nature as the emotionally rattled star and acquits herself admirably in the concert sequences.