Vox Lux 2018 *****

Catnip for the Black Swan audience, Bradley Corbett’s Vox Lux spins a familiar trope into something original and yet familiar; a backstage story of a nervous female performer straggling with the pressure of on-stage performance. It’s remarkable then, that Vox Lux captures something different from other films on the subject; driven by a huge performance by Natalie Portman, Corbett seems to be leaning specifically on the circumstances involving Ariana Grande and the Manchester bombing. Portman’s pop-singing diva originally came to prominence in the aftermath of a high-school shooting, depicted in jarring in-your-face visuals in the opening scenes. Vox Lux drifts some way from her original demure stage persona, and she is seen struggling with substance abuse, as well and questionable relationships with her family and her agent (Jude Law, embracing his sleaze in a Dom Hemingway style). Vox Lux could have gone in several melodramatic ways, but Corbett continually dials the narrative back, creating a grounded yet soaring finale that’s got a real edge. Not for the masses, Vox Lux is a deconstruction of pop and womanhood that observes a fragmenting subject with a keen, dispassionate eye. Songs by Sia.