Natalie Portman’s performance is one of her best. She’s effusive in her desperation, her love, her anger, and her isolation. Sometimes all at the same time. She dangles her character Celeste precariously over the edge of an emotional abyss only she can see. And Celeste wishes desperately the rest of the characters around her–her sister, her daughter, her manager–could know what it is she’s thrashing against. But ultimately, they don’t. Which only adds to the her concentric rings of isolation. Portman is masterful. One of her best performances.

Unfortunately, it’s lost on a hot mess of a script. Portman is the Celestial (see what they did there?) presence around which all the other characters orbit. But for some inexplicable reason, the film is divided into three movements. The first half offers Raffey Cassidy’s competent performance as Celeste, but with no Natalie Portman. The next third finally gives us Portman’s heavy lightning version of Celeste. What’s left is what seems to be Portman’s version of early Lady Gaga.

While I think the concert footage is intended to be layered with the complexity of young Celeste’s tragedy and mature Celeste’s scar tissue, it doesn’t quite hold together. The final concert footage is just a bit too perfectly choreographed with Celeste’s pop-diva mask being too effectively opaque.

I can see the potential for this film to have been a harrowing and insightful portrait of pop stardom, but Brady Corbet’s directing doesn’t quite deliver.

(If you want to see more of my reviews, you can check them out over on my Letterboxd profile.)

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