Toronto: Natalie Portman's Performance Could Propel Hot Acquisition Title 'Vox Lux' Into Oscar Race

Vox Lux, one of the more buzzed-about acquisition titles coming into this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, having already world-premiered and received raves at the Venice Film Festival, did not disappoint the audience that packed the Elgin Theatre on Friday for the film’s North American premiere. 

The psychedelic “pop opera” about a school shooting survivor who becomes a pop star — “vox lux” is Latin for "voice of light" — was written and directed by actor-turned-filmmaker Brady Corbet. It seems likely to find a U.S. distributor, and, if released this year, could propel Oscar winner Natalie Portman, who plays the manic, possibly PTSD-afflicted adult version of the survivor, into the best actress race. (It's an hour before she enters the film, but then she totally takes it over.) 

Portman’s Closer (2004) co-star Jude Law plays the manager who guides her character’s career from the immediate aftermath of the shooting, when her character is first played by Raffey CassidyWillem Dafoe serves as the film’s narrator.

Portman, Law and the mysterious singer/songwriter Sia are all credited as executive producers, with Oscar nominee Christine Vachon, among others, listed as a producer. Sia is also responsible for the film’s songs, some of which could attract Oscar attention — particularly one that appears to be called “I Crumble” — as could the film’s cinematography, which features many long Steadicam takes, by Lol Crawley.

The biggest hurdles for Vox Lux, which was produced by Andrew Lauren Productions and Bold Films, will be its graphic and disturbing violence, as well as a story that can feel overwhelming in trying to address so much in less than two hours — from school shootings to terrorism to celebrity obsession to the “commodification of everything,” as Portman put it during a post-screening Q&A. But the actress' bold and brave performance, which includes a drug-addled meltdown as well as an all-out song-and-dance concert performance, makes it well worth the price of admission — and could buy it a ticket into the Oscar race.