Brady Corbet’s VoxLux portrays a star who is born out of tragedy and she manages to keep milking it for a seemingly infinite time. Natalie Portman is that star and her work here is certainly memorable. Unlike her Oscar-winning turn in 2010’s BlackSwan (which also explored the highs and lows of notoriety), this movie never quite earns being blessed by her committed performance. It drew me in for a while before getting lost in its own pretentiousness and, eventually, a feeling of meaninglessness. Maybe that’s the point Corbet is going for with his script as he ruminates on the vapid nature of pop celebrity. However, when the message is that the main character isn’t ultimately worth paying attention to, it’s tricky to get invested.
We meet Celeste as a 14-year-old in 1999, as played by Raffey Cassidy. She and sister Ellie survive a school shooting, leaving Celeste with a gunshot wound to the spinal area. Her recovery inspires her to write a ballad that strikes a chord with the nation. When it’s time to cut a full album, it’s in the aftermath of 9/11 when her lightweight dance pop recordings (courtesy of Sia) are the kind of throwaway ditties that fit the airwaves. These horrific events turn Celeste into a superstar and ultimately a diva.
Forty minutes in, the story flashes forward to 2017. Now 31 years old and now in the diminutive but fierce form of Portman, Celeste is prepping a comeback tour while attempting to rid herself of certain baggage. There’s an at fault car accident from a few years back that caused injury. And there’s the breaking news of the day – a terrorist attack in Central Europe where the assailants dressed as characters from one of her old videos.
Celeste deals with all this as she’s an absentee mom to her own teen, also played by Cassidy. Her girl is raised primarily by Ellie (Stacy Martin) and that sister relationship is strained to its limit. Jude Law is the manager who puts up with the frequent tantrums and rock star behavior while indulging in it himself.
For a while, VoxLux is unique enough with its subject matter to inspire hope. That’s for about an hour when it seems to be generating its thesis on stardom and tragedy. I will say I dug Willem Dafoe’s intermittent ironic narration. In the second half, it’s mostly about watching Celeste’s out of control behavior. In the realm of musical tales, this runs out of fresh notes to hit. What helps is that Portman is terrific. She just never quite elevates this above being an occasional fascinating misfire.
Based on the well-known works of Beatrix Potter, Sony Pictures is hoping family audiences will hop to Peter Rabbit when it debuts next weekend. The mix of live-action and CG animation features the voices of James Corden in the title role along with Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie, and Sia. Familiar faces physically present include Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, and Sam Neill. Will Gluck, maker of Easy A and the recent Annie remake, directs.
Rabbit could be in a solid position to attract kids and their parents now that box office juggernaut Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is finally winding down. Many are still familiar with the source material that first appeared in literary form in 1902.
I’ll estimate that the reported $50 million production makes a bit under $20 million out of the gate.
Peter Rabbit opening weekend prediction: $18.7 million
Blogger’s Note (10/04/17): I have revised my estimate up from $8.2 million to $10.9 million
Lest you confuse it with My Little Pony: The Seance or My Little Pony: The Rodeo perhaps, My Little Pony: The Movie gallops into theaters next weekend with a likely soft footprint.
Based on the Hasbro toy franchise that also spawned Transformers and G.I. Joe franchises, this one leaves out the action and is geared towards family audiences and little girls. The pic is an extension of a children’s animated show that airs on The Hub (which is apparently a thing… I’m probably not the target audience).
In addition to the voice actors who work on the TV series, there’s some familiar faces behind the voices including Emily Blunt, Zoe Saldana, Liev Schrieber, Kristin Chenoweth, Michael Pena, Sia, Uzo Aduba, and Taye Diggs.
Family audiences will have Ninjago in its third weekend for competition, even though it’s underwhelmed in its earnings. Yet it’s hard to see these ponies breaking out in any major way. I have doubts this will even reach double digits out of the gate.
My Little Pony: The Movie opening weekend prediction: $10.9 million