Vox Lux (dir. Brady Corbet)

I forgot how difficult it is to navigate through Hollywood before 10 p.m. After the jogging and anxiety-induced sweat spurred by my fear of missing the movies, the last thing I needed was an Escape From Tomorrow type movie saying the media that brings me joy is actually bad for me. Vox Lux was very close to being that kind of film, but through the magic of empathy, Brady Corbet’s sophomore film overcomes its desire to be little more than a college aged cynic.

Vox Lux has many merits: the seamless blending of a haunting Scott Walker score with original Sia pop songs being one of them. What makes the film stand out, however, is the level of empathy Corbet has for its particularly despicable main character. Celeste is an innocent Christian girl turned drug-addled diva—rude, self-centered, and abusive to all, including her own daughter. After hearing that she may have killed somebody while driving under the influence and still has an entitled grasp on her career, every bone in your body wants to hate her.

But you can’t.

You can’t hate her because of the way that Corbet introduced her: as a little girl whose time in the Eden of childhood was cut violently short when a deranged student came to school armed with intent to kill. The gunshots, piles of bodies, bloodstained uniforms–the gruesomeness of that school shooting makes any hate towards Celeste intensely complicated. It frames every action she takes as a means of escape.

By providing such a brutal origin story, Corbet is able to take the stance that opposes critics of the escapism that is pop music. Instead of bashing the emptiness of pop music, the film instead argues that we should bash the world that drives people to make and seek empty pop music. No longer is saying, “Lady Gaga sucks” subversive. Praising her is the real risk. —Chris Villalta 

Raffey Cassidy as a young Celeste in Vox Lux. Image courtesy of Neon.

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