Austin Film Festival Review: Vox Lux

Does Natalie Portman's music drama hit the right notes?

In Brady Corbet’s musical drama Vox Lux, a star isn’t so much born as forged and shaped by the blunt force of trauma.

The film takes a pseudo-documentary approach to telling of the rise and rebirth (don’t call it a comeback) of Gaga-esque pop star Celeste (played as a teen by Raffey Cassidy, then Natalie Portman as an adult), whose career begins when she catches media attention after a life-altering tragedy.

There’s nothing happy in this story – even moments that should be hopeful, like when Celeste first goes to NYC with her sister (Stacy Martin) and manager (Jude Law) to shop record labels, the scenes of the city are marked by low shots of towering, cold buildings and punctuated by a brutal drum beat. Fame is reining her in with its dark magic.

The timeline omits about 15 years of Celeste’s life, suturing the past to the future, forming a symmetrical tapestry of a life – Cassidy even loops around to play older Celeste’s daughter, and she gives the new character so much distinction that I didn’t recognize her at first. Portman is bratty but bold, covered in cold metal (an interesting costuming choice) as a new tragedy sparks outrage rather than fear.

Vox Lux opens nationally on Dec. 7.

The Austin Film Festival Runs Oct. 25 - Nov. 1. Tickets and info at

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More by Danielle White
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Vox Lux, Natalie Portman, Austin Film Festival, Austin Film Festival 2018, Jude Law, Raffey Cassidy

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