VOX LUX – movie review

Reviewed for Shockya.com by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Brady Corbet
Screenwriter:  Brady Corbet
Cast:  Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Raffey Cassidy, Stacy Martin, Jennifer Ehle
Screened at: Critics link, NYC, 11/22/18
Opens: December 7, 2018
Vox Lux - Poster Gallery
A novelistic narration by Willem Dafoe may give the viewer the impression that “Vox Lux” is a biopic about a singer whose name you might have forgotten.  The movie may well be a statement about the complex lives of superstars and choreographed dancers.  Brady Corbet’s sophomore picture still has us focused on one individual who comes back from drugs and scandal.  The element of luck comes into play, in this case catapulting the career of a 14-year-old.  Celeste’s song of grief after a terrorist attack on a high school leaving the teacher and some students in a music class dead and Celeste seriously injured will result in stardom for its young performer.  A tragic, then, drives a teen from an innocent, religious girl whose life may have been spared because she urges the gunman to pray with her to a disturbed addict whose new demeanor will demand no cost for her.

This is the beginning of a career in the music business, replete with staffs of creative people overseeing the talent of the new singer: a star is born.  This is up the writer-director’s ally, as his freshman film, “The Childhood of a Leader” takes the viewer into events that lead the title character to become a guide after World War I.

The opening visual shows a high-school kid’s murderous mission to the music room cutting down the teacher and some students, giving the impression that we may have tuned into a thriller rather than a study of a singer’s career.  When Celeste (Raffey Cassidy), using the song-writing skills of her sister Eleanor (Stacy Martin), sings a mournful song at a memorial, word gets out to a nameless manager (Jude Law) who pushes the young woman to learn theatrical dance, rounding out the career that would spiral upward, get sent to earth, and gaining a comeback.  She picks up the support of Josie (Jennifer Ehle) as her publicist.  Eighteen years pass and now Celeste (Natalie Portman), hampered by a drug addiction, knocks out a new album, enjoying a close relationship with her teen daughter, Albertine (Raffey Cassidy in the double role.)

On the day of Celeste’s show which promises an audience of thousands, a terrorist attack occurs in Croatia, the shooters wearing masks from one of her videos.  This is where the film shines, spotlighting Natalie Portman’s ham-fisted performance while sharing a coffee shop table with her daughter and, with wild gestures and an ethnic accent, she unfolds her veritable life story to the young woman before being chased out by the restaurant’s manager.  In an extended finale Celeste, in a song and dance marathon, wows the crowd, her philosophy being that people should feel good and not worry too much about thinking.

The title comes from the name of her comeback album, “Vox Lux,” while thematically, the thirty-year-old writer director places his aim the nexus of violence and tragedy: the first horror has led to Celeste’s celebrity status, affording a cynical glory to a violent act and the paradox that out of mayhem, celebrity is born.

115 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B-
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B

I LOVE YOU DADDY – movie review


    The Orchard
    Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, Shockya
    Grade: B
    Director:  Louis C.K.
    Written by: Louis C.K., Vernon Chatman
    Cast:  Louis C.K., Chloë Grace Moretz, Charlie Day, Edie Falco, John Malkovich, Rose Byrne, Helen Hunt
    Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 11/12/17
    Opens: November 17, 2017 Release has been cancelled by the distributor
    I Love You, Daddy Poster #1
    When a critic for the trade magazine Variety reviewed this picture at the Toronto International Film Festival some months back, he had no idea that the off-screen Louis C.K would become more discussed than his movie.  Louis C.K., of Mexican-American heritage, directs, has co-written and stars in the mostly comic look at the lives of entertainment people.  Given its black-and-white filming, and the big statement “The End” at the conclusion, we’re obviously seeing a modern look at the TV business but in the style of the forties and not with implied references to Woody Allen.

    Louis C.K., perhaps the only celebrity who in real life has freely admitted the charge that he sexually harassed the five women who recently filed complaints, does not in my view deserve to have the studio cancel the distribution of this entertaining and insightful film.  Nor should Stephen Colbert have canceled this director’s show one night before he was to appear since, after all, given Louis C.K.”s willingness to come clean (I should probably rephrase that), he would have made a stellar guest.

    The “I Love You, Daddy” title is taken from the overly-frequent expression of China (Chloë Grace Moretz), the beautiful, blond 17-year-old daughter of Glen Topher (Louis C.K.).  China should be grateful for the life of wealth that his divorced dad has given her (she had expressed her desire to be under the custody of her dad rather than of her mother played by Helen Hunt).  Glen has been awfully lenient with her. He’s just a guy who can’t say no when she wants to go to Florida on Spring Break  and hardly protests when she asks to return just a week or so later.  He has given her no direction, has drawn no boundaries, and yet thinks he deserves to be praised simply because he lavishes his wealth on her.  She is so spoiled that she chooses not to go on to college, since with all the wealth in her family, why bother?

    Glen is faced by two problems. After spectacular successes with TV episodic shows, he now has writers’ block, but given his fame, a desirable actress, Grace Cullen (Rose Byrne), wants desperately to be cast.  Further, he is putting his foot down, albeit not with much impact, by forbidding his daughter from accepting an invitation to Paris from Lesley Graham (John Malkovich), a celebrated filmmaker with a taste for young women, preferably before they reach 18.  It’s no surprise that she goes, and we are not given clues to what exactly she does with him beyond drinking expensive wine and listening to his sophomoric philosophy of life.

    The film blends  queasy drama with mostly sit-comish comedy, the latter contributed heavily by Ralph (Charlie Day), who hangs out regularly on Glen’s couch and serves as the vulgar clown, including a spell of simulated masturbation at the mere mention of the sexy actress Grace Cullen.  In that last regard, those of us with a knowledge of the specific charges in real life against the comedian cannot help saying that art follows life.  Put me down as considering it a shame that what an actor does that’s not according to Hoyle means that the public will be unable to partake of this entertainment, as though the man’s peccadilloes should put him on a blacklist.  There is some doubt as well that DVD sales are forthcoming, meaning that the only people who see this movie are critics and the audience at the Toronto Film Festival.

    Rated R.  123 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

    Story – B
    Acting – B+
    Technical – B
    Overall – B