Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Ehle, Jude Law, Stacy Martin, Raffey Cassidy, Willem Dafoe, Maria Dizzia, Christopher Abbott, Meg Gibson, Daniel London, Micheal Richardson, Matt Servitto, Leslie Silva
OUR RATING: ★★★½
Music drama written and directed by Brady Corbet, in which the story follows the rise of Celeste (Natalie Portman) from the ashes of a major national tragedy to pop superstardom. The story spans 18 years and traces important cultural moments through the singer’s eye, starting in 1999 and ending in the present day.
The story begins in 1999 with teenage sisters Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) and Eleanor (Stacy Martin), who have survived a seismic, violent tragedy. The sisters compose and perform a song about their experience, making something lovely and cathartic out of catastrophe and launch singing careers. The sisters draw the attention of a passionate manager (Jude Law) and are rapidly catapulted into fame and fortune, with Celeste as the star and Eleanor the creative anchor. In 2017, the now older Celeste is mother to a teenage daughter of her own, Albertine (Raffey Cassidy), and struggling to navigate a career fraught with scandals when another act of terrifying violence demands her attention.
Best Quotes (Total Quotes: 27)
Narrator: [voice over] Celeste was born in America in 1986. Considering her parents background, education, and socioeconomic status, being somewhat on the losing side of Reaganomics, the name of Latin origin seemed an especially poetic choice. It carved her out some predetermined destination, a route which to travel by. And many years before “Celeste” rolled off the cultural tongue like a principled anecdote one senses they were born knowing, she might not have been described as all that special or conspicuously talented. However, she did possess that proverbial something, which on occasion captured the attention of her teachers and young peers. Despite what naysayers later perceived of her ingenuity, she was actually a very savvy businesswoman. In the beginning, she was kind and full of grace, and at least she wrote her own lyrics. No one could take that away from her.
[to young Celeste]
The Manager: I’ve been doing this a long time, and I can understand if it’s a little overwhelming, but you have to trust the process. The process works. That’s why you and your parents chose me to guide you through this strange and unpredictable new process. So I want you to remember what I told you at your parents place the first time we met. You got to shut your eyes and pretend like you’re in your bedroom. You’re just dancing in your bedroom, and no one’s looking at you, and you ain’t got a care in the world, okay?
Young Celeste: That’s what I love about pop music. I don’t want people to have to think too hard. I just want them to feel good. Ever since it happened, I have the same dream every night.
The Musician: Tell me.
Young Celeste: In my dream, I’m speeding through a tunnel that doesn’t seem to end. I’m late to meet someone at the other side. And every time I turn these wide bends in the road, I drive past a body, but I don’t stop for it.
The Musician: Dead body?
Young Celeste: Not exactly, but lifeless. After a while, I realize that they’re these doubles of me, like clones, that I’ve tried to send down the tunnel in my place. But they never made it to the other side. They’re never the same age. They’re always laid out in different configurations.
The Musician: Makes sense.
Young Celeste: Does it?
The Musician: Sure. I mean, you almost died. So now it’s easy to imagine yourself dead at any age.
Young Celeste: I don’t think that’s what it’s about, because in my dream, I know that I will never die.
The Musician: What’s at the end of the tunnel?
Young Celeste: I always wake up before I get there. But I’m so frightened, because I’m going somewhere where no one can find me and no one knows my name.
Narrator: [voice over] Haunted by the ephemeral image of her sister and manager’s nocturnal encounter, wrestling feelings of betrayal and exclusion, Celeste’s loss of innocence curiously mirrored that of the nation. From that day forth, the girls’ paths diverged, and the two sisters were forcefully pushed towards opposing severities of their characters.
Young Celeste: One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four we go.
Celeste: [to Albertine] Now people will try and sell you anything, a TV monitor that plain as day looks like shit, but they tout it as “ultra mega triple hi-def” whatever. Their business model relies on their customer’s unshakable stupidity. And deep down, we probably sense that their intimate knowledge of our commitment to the lowest common denominator. It’s the official manifestation of the increasingly important urge to break with every living thing that has some connection to the past.
Celeste: [to Albertine] When we weren’t paying attention, everyone got together and they voted that traditions of the past are ugly. The past reeks too much of ugly old people and death. So Mama’s got to stay fresh.
Celeste: You know, I’m pretty sure that every year my videos keep getting worse and worse, but they’re doing better and better. They showed me this perfume thing we shot last year where I’m unfurling from a digital rose petal like Thumbelina, and I thought it would ruin me, but here I am, opening for thirty thousand.
Albertine: Mom, what are you even talking about?
Celeste: I’m letting you in on a little secret because I love you, that’s what. It doesn’t matter anymore if you’re Michelangelo, or if you’re Mikey and Angelo from New Brighton. All that matters is that you have an angle. And Aunt Ellie never found her angle. And then she decided to go get jealous of my good fortune. She made her own choices. And let me tell you, she could never do what I do day in and day out. But luckily, she gets to go home to you every night, and she doesn’t have any real-world responsibilities because I finance her entire life.
Celeste: You know, sometimes you just get kicked while you’re down.
[as she starts crying]
Celeste: Oh, God. I shouldn’t do this in front of you.
Albertine: It’s fine.
Celeste: No, it’s not. I would slap me across the face if I was sitting across from me right now.
Celeste: [to Albertine] I keep feeling like big moments get stolen away from me.
Diner Manager: Um, hey, do you mind if I get a quick picture with you?
Celeste: Now is not the best time.
Diner Manager: It’s not for public use or anything. It’ll just take a minute.
Celeste: Is this what you want a picture with? I’m trying to talk to my daughter.
Diner Manager: I’m sorry, you don’t have to use that tone with me. I think I asked you very nicely.
[Celeste slams the table in anger]
Diner Manager: You don’t have to be so upset. It’s just a picture.
Celeste: Are you fucking serious, man?
Diner Manager: Please don’t use that language.
Celeste: You know, how dare you, motherf*cker?
Diner Manager: Alison, can you call the police?
Celeste: Who the fuck do you think you are?
Diner Manager: You know, I could ask you the same question. I can smell the alcohol on your breath, by the way, so.
Celeste: Oh, are you trying to embarrass me in front of my daughter?
Diner Manager: I didn’t even know you had a daughter. I just came up here to be friendly, and you started yelling at me. Now I’m asking you to leave the restaurant, or I’m going to call the cops.
Albertine: Let’s just go.
Celeste: Alright. You should be ashamed of yourself, prick.
Diner Manager: And you should be ashamed of yourself, miss.
Albertine: I’m worried about you.
Celeste: You’re worried about me? You don’t need to worry about me. I’m solid. I worry about you. Baby, that’s my job to worry about you.
The Manager: [to Celeste] Keep it simple. You’re going to do great.
[to the reporters]
Celeste: I have an outpouring of love for victims of today’s unthinkable event, and for victims of violence everywhere, and I am deeply saddened to be associated with such an obscene and unnecessary tragedy. It’s a weird world we live in, and I guess, no matter how much you try to ignore all these things that are really happening, sometimes they just find a way to creep in.
Reporter: Why do you think they chose you? Do you assume there’s some connection to New Brighton?
Celeste: I don’t know, I mean, I know about as much as you right now, and, um, you know, since no one’s coming forward and saying, “Hey, we did this,” I’d prefer not to speculate. But if they did choose this disguise on purpose, I guess that it’s because they don’t like that I’m a woman, or maybe they don’t like that I’m a successful woman. Maybe they don’t like that I had a kid when I was a kid. Maybe they think I’m a floozy. But, hey, maybe you guys think that too. I mean, the way I’ve chosen to live my life goes against some people’s views on things.
The Manager: Do you actually believe the weird shit you said up there?
Celeste: They wanted a show, I gave them a show.
The Journalist: I know we were just asked not to talk about today’s attack, but, um, I can’t help but let it contextualize my next question.
The Journalist: Okay. Uh, you know, it just got me thinking, do you feel that there has been a shift in the culture, where nihilist radical groups like this are increasingly keen on being perceived as superstars themselves?
Celeste: I mean, who cares? I was hesitant to even make a statement today, because all these ultra-violent thugs want is to make headlines. I mean, if everyone stopped paying attention to them, they’d cease to exist. So would people like me, I guess, But that’s the only link I can really think of between me and them. I couldn’t just ignore the casualties though. It makes me sick.
The Journalist: I guess, uh, from the public’s perspective, this has been a, I guess, emotional few years for you, bizarre events today very much included. Can you shed any light on the significance of these upcoming arena performances for you personally? You’re kicking things off in your hometown.
Celeste: This is a culmination of my life’s work so far. You know, we worked on it for two years before bringing it to the public.
The Journalist: Why two years?
Celeste: Well, the year before that, I was under a lot of stress after my accident. And it’s an expensive show to put on. I wanted to make sure all the best people became available. I wanted all my best dancers back.
The Journalist: With the decision to kick things off in New Brighton, you must have considered the event like a homecoming resurgence since the accident and the arrest for, uh, causing serious injury by dangerous driving?
Celeste: Injury, not serious injury. And I never stopped making music, so I don’t consider it a resurgence. You know, I just wanted a place to channel all that anxiety and suffering into something tangible, something positive.
The Journalist: Mm-hmm. Well, then can you shed any light on why that case was abruptly dropped?
Celeste: I see what you’re doing.
The Journalist: Well, you brought it up.
Celeste: I’m not going to say abruptly anything, okay?
Celeste: Listen, there are three classifications of gunshot wounds to the spine. I’m type three, which means that the bullet is lodged in my inter-vertebral disc space. Now, type three injuries are further subdivided into, A, spinal injury without perforation of abdominal viscera, and, B, spinal lesions with perforation of abdominal organs. Now, thankfully, I’m type A, but it’s no secret that I’m on meds for my injury, and I never should’ve been behind the wheel of a car that night.
[turns to call out to her publicist]
The Journalist: I didn’t mean to upset you by that.
Celeste: I used to be treated like I was a hero, and then they start talking about me like I’m trailer trash. But that’s what this show is about. It’s about rebirth.
Celeste: I’m scared.
The Manager: Nothing to be scared about, kiddo. Nothing.
[looking worse for wear, he puts on his sunglasses and leans his hand against the wall]
The Manager: Celeste, come on. Everybody’s downstairs.
[Celeste appears collapsing to the ground]
The Manager: Spoiled brat.
Celeste: Don’t you ever fucking call me a spoiled brat! Don’t you ever! I am sick of everybody treating me like I’m not a person!
[to Ellie; crying]
Celeste: I just want to be queen for them, and sometimes I don’t feel like a queen at all. Sometimes, I’m just so ugly underneath all this. If they only knew.
[to the concert crowd]
Celeste: Tonight, we’re going to bring it back to where it all began. You want to travel back in time with me? Tonight is all for you. That’s right, bitches. My little angels.
[to the concert crowd]
Celeste: I hear all you angels. Thirty thousand of my little angels. So tell me, how many of you have ever had a boy break your heart? And how many of you have cried yourselves to sleep at night because somebody called you an ugly name? Fat? Hideous? Slut? Well, guess what? People have been trying to take me down for years, but I won’t stay down.
Narrator: [voice over] Late one night at the hospital, following that fateful morning at New Brighton, Celeste made a maddening claim that only her sister had ever sensed to be true. She recounted a story to Eleanor that went something like this. Shortly after her classmate pulled the trigger and sent her to the place between life and death, a place that she was only able to describe to Eleanor as a rush of color. She had met the devil and made a deal with him in exchange for her life. He whispered her melodies, and she returned with a mission to bring great change to the next century. He said, “Shut your eyes and repeat after me. One for the money, two for the show. On three we get ready. And on four, come with me.”
Total Quotes: 27
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