First Hit: Intense film that’s different in its presentation as it echos a generation who’s losing touch with their heart while holding little hope.
There’s an eeriness that arrives as soon as the film begins. Not only do we see most of the credits before the film begins, which is a throwback to older times, it starts with a young man parking a truck, leaving it next to a building, then stalking away in the cover of darkness and wearing a hoodie.
With Willem Dafoe providing a narrative voice to set stage for each scene, the film moves through Celeste’s (played by both Raffey Cassidy as the younger Celeste and Natalie Portman) life. The first encounter is with the young man in their classroom where he walks in, shoots and kills the teacher,while attempting to set off a car bomb planted from the night before. Because the bomb fails to do the damage he’d hoped for, he starts shooting wanting to kill everyone in the classroom.
The film’s distinctive eeriness continues with how this film is shot. The scenes are elongated. This is demonstrated in the shooting scene with the response by the police and the haunting sound and flashing of the alarm penetrates the audience for much longer one would expect. This technique continues to the end of the movie with extended songs being sung by Celeste. These long scenes help to breathe life into a character that is somewhat devoid of life.
Affected by the shooting and after rehabbing to walk again, the film follows Celeste (Cassidy) and her sister Eleanor (Stacy Martin) as they write a song about the incident. Catching the ear of crusty and wizened Manager (Jude Law), they sell that song, along with others, to a record company.
Becoming famous, Celeste loses touch with reality and liveson the road. The only touch she has with her former life, as a young innocent God believing person, is her sister who takes care of her, is her only real friend and tries to protect her.
Jumping time, we meet Celeste (Portman) as a mid-thirties star, still singing pop songs that lack real meaning and messages but are popular. We learn that she’s had alcohol and drugs issues that were pranced in front of the public. She has a daughter named Albertine (Cassidy playing this role as well), and has other problematic public incidences including the death of a fan.
As Celeste bounces around in her chaotic life, it’s clear she has little touch with anything other than her own fame. She takes little responsibility for what she’s created around her.
This film makes a point that the younger generations are seeing a uselessness in the structures and institutions built from the past. There is a devaluation of life and there is a hollowness in the film and performances that reflect this disassociation with life.
Portman was excellent, for the most part. Her portrayal of this narcissistic deva with a level of hollowness was sublime. However, my hesitation of her performance is around her overly pronounced Long Island accent. The young Celeste has little or no accent, while the grown-up Celeste has a pronounced accent. I didn’t understand this and it plagued me as the film unfolded. Martin was excellent as the older sister. I liked how she moved through the film, providing support and guidance to Celeste, while supplicating herself to Celeste’s peculiarities. Cassidy was outstanding as both the young Celeste and then Celeste’s daughter Albertine. Law was strong as the pushy, crusty manager who looked out for himself more than Celeste. Brady Corbet both wrote and directed this film. There was an, interesting, detached, and modern feel to this story and film.
Overall: Days after seeing the film, I’m still processing the story and performances.