Vox Lux

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Vox Lux Movie Poster Image
Stark but glitzy music-industry drama has violence, sex.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 112 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Makes some attempts to connect violence and the music industry, though what it's actually trying to say about that connection is vague. But it does show violence as shocking and abhorrent and depict drug and alcohol abuse as damaging.

Positive Role Models & Representations

In the first half, Celeste can be seen something of a role model, connecting people all over with her song. But she shortly becomes a cog in the pop music machine, mean and manipulative.

Violence

Graphic scenes of a school shooting, with an automatic weapon fired, characters (many of them teens) shot, blood spurts, dead bodies, pools of blood, etc. Masked terrorists fire weapons into a crowded beach. A teen girl is in an ambulance, covered in blood. Celeste is said to have a bullet lodged in her spine. Mention of 9/11 attacks. Angry arguing. Threats. Spoken story of a car accident.

Sex

A man is shown in suggestive/sexual positions with an underage teen girl: grinding up against her in a doorway and lying in bed with her, partly unclothed. Couple caught in bed together (no nudity). Mention of a teen girl losing her virginity; teen asked to take pregnancy test (offscreen). Some sexual suggestion. Characters in revealing costumes.

Language

Fairly frequent language includes uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "bulls--t," "bitch," "prick," "retard/retarded," "hell," "for Christ's sake," "Jesus" (as an exclamation).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Suggested teen drinking. Teen girl throws up after a night of partying. Adults use drugs; they're so high they can barely walk. Minor characters discuss drug use. Main character takes prescription pain pills; she also day drinks. Spoken story of a character drinking cleaning products/methanol and going blind.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Vox Lux is a music-industry drama about a singer named Celeste who rises to stardom after surviving a school shooting. There are two sequences with graphic violence: the school shooting and a terrorist attack. Automatic weapons are fired, and characters (many of them teens) get shot, bleed, and die. Celeste is said to have a bullet lodged in her spine, and there are other descriptions of violence. Teen drinking is strongly implied (a teen girl vomits after a night out); characters also use drugs (getting quite high) and drink, and there are many mentions of drugs. Language is strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and more. A man is shown in non-graphic sexual situations with an underage teen girl, and another teen girl is said to have lost her virginity. Other sexual moments are suggested or discussed. The movie's tone is downbeat, and its messages are rather vague. But it has enough flash and dazzle to make it worth a look. Natalie Portman and Jude Law star.

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What's the story?

VOX LUX starts out in 2000: Teen Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) is in music class when a teen gunman enters, kills the teacher, and shoots Celeste. She survives, but a bullet is lodged in her spine, and she must take pain medication for life. At a memorial service, along with her sister, Ellie (Stacy Martin), Celeste performs a moving song that becomes a popular anthem. Celeste finds a manager (Jude Law) and embarks upon a new career as a pop star, simply hoping to make people happy. But on Sept. 11, 2001, Celeste catches Ellie in bed with the manager, and her outlook changes forever. Years later, in 2017, grown-up Celeste (Natalie Portman) prepares for the first show of a big new tour, talking to journalists, trying to spend quality time with her daughter, and fighting her own inner demons. Can she continue to do what she was born to do?

Is it any good?

This drama set in the pop music world has plenty to say, but its delivery of its message doesn't quite work. Still, Portman's nervy performance and the movie's dazzling cinematography and haunting music make it worth a look. Written and directed by actor-turned-filmmaker Brady Corbet, Vox Lux is very much an anti-A Star Is Born; it shows the dark side of showbiz, wherein virtually nothing is sacred. The movie more or less places pop music side by side with brutal acts of terrorism. A gunshot wound kickstarts Celeste's career, and another violent attack launches her latest big show. But when Celeste takes the stage in the movie's colorful final act, it's ultimately not entirely clear what the movie meant to say by all this.

In the movie's second half, Portman gets to rage, cajole, break down, get high, be indignant, be fabulous, and be a star so big that she claims to be the "new testament." She adopts a tough New York accent and lots of swagger. Corbet's camera smoothly glides behind her as she struts into some situations and staggers out of others; though darker, the style here is weirdly similar to that of A Star Is Born. The music by the moody genius Scott Walker, with pop songs written by the extremely talented Sia, crystalize Vox Lux, making it sound serious and authentic. When it's over, you may not be sure what you've just seen, but you'll know you've definitely seen something.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Vox Lux's violence. Did you find the violent scenes disturbing? Why or why not? How does this violence connect to the rest of the story?

  • How is sex depicted? Are characters partners, or is it more recreational? What values are imparted?

  • How are drinking and drug use shown? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences? Why is that important?

  • How does this movie compare to A Star Is Born? How are the messages different? What view does each movie take toward performing? Stardom? Do these movies make performing music seem appealing?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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