A punk rocker falls victim to her self-destructive lifestyle and must fight for her sobriety.
This is a rather frustrating film.
On one hand, I feel like this movie should be seen just for Elisabeth Moss’ (“Us”) performance as the punk rocker Becky Something, and on the other hand, I’d warn people off watching this just because of the hefty runtime. I have no problem with longer films, but that length needs to feel earned, and in this film it certainly doesn’t. There were some really cool directing moments and a few really well written scenes that provided a fair amount of exposition without feeling like an info dump, so for that I applaud writer/director Alex Ross Perry.
However, there were more than a handful of scenes that just stretched on too long, and many of the technical aspects in some of the more chaotic sequences were a bit tawdry. Flashing neon lights and weird sound design might convey a feeling of confusion and mania for a short time, but after a while it starts to loose its meaning. The first half of this film reminded me a lot of Gaspar Noe’s latest film “Climax”; both films used similar chaotic neon colors, and both films consisted of a lot of wandering through hallways and spouting their drug-fueled beliefs on anyone who’d listen. I also thought both films looked cool for a while and then after a while their color tones lost any effect on me.
I think my biggest problem with this film is that it felt episodic in a way that didn’t really work for me. This film could be broken down into a series of vignettes. Becky Something performs on stage; she has a meltdown backstage fighting with her ex-boyfriend/baby daddy played by Dan Stevens (“Apostle”) and a former pop star friend whom is now bigger than her (Amber Heard, “Aquaman”); she has a meltdown in a studio but also runs into a new girl group (two of whom are played by Cara Delevinge (“Valrian and the City of a Thousand Planets”), Ashley Benson (“Spring Breakers”)); she hits rock bottom and has to be escorted off stage; she realizes she’s made a mistake; she performs at her boss’s party and thanks her friends for all the help she’s received.
Now, really, there is a decent overall story here, but the relationships between the characters weren’t developed enough for me to buy what the ending was selling. Throughout the whole of this film, Becky Something struggles with substances (we’re not really sure what as we never really see her do drugs or drink excessively). As she struggles to maintain sobriety and sanity, we realize that she still has people who love her and who are trying to help her, but she keeps turning down their offers of help to do crazy things (like hire a shaman). This part of the story is really well done (though it does drag on about twenty minutes too long); it’s really in the second half of the story where I started to have more issues.
After Becky hits bottom, we learn that she’s being sued by a lot of people; she’s practically broke, but she’s sober. She’s approached by her old manager Howard (Eric Stoltz, “Pulp Fiction”) to do a show with her old band mates and she accepts almost immediately. I feel as if this film didn’t really let Becky feel the weight of the consequences of her actions. In one scene she was a mess and in the next she was almost solid as a rock; it just felt completely unearned.
The ending too felt very strange. Becky brings all the girls that had had an impact on her career up to sing a song at Howard’s party and she thanks all the girls for sticking with her through the rougher parts of her life. The director was clearly vying for this moment to be some great ‘we did it’ moment, but again it felt completely unearned.
I thought Elisabeth Moss gave a really good performance and I thought there were one or two pretty cool scenes and concepts, but overall this movie was pretty slowly paced, and it was about a half an hour too long. I really think there is far better movie here somewhere, if the director would only be willing to whittle a bit away. I thought “Vox Lux” told a similar story with more pizzazz, a similarly impressive performance, and it boasted a better soundtrack too.
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