Clouds of Sils Maria is an interesting film written and directed by Olivier Assayas. It is about an aging actress, Maria (Juliette Binoche) who is trying to take on the older role in a play in which she originated the younger role. She is going through the process with her assistant, Valentine (Kristen Stewart), who reads lines with her.
The play is about a woman who is in love with her assistant, and Maria’s dependence on Valentine combined with their close relationship mirrors the script they practice for the play is such a way that you are sometimes not certain if they are speaking to each other as themselves or in character.
The film is an interesting examination of the relationship between these two women, as well as an in-depth look at the struggle of aging as a woman, particularly in the world of show business. Now, at 51, Binoche is hardly ancient by anyone’s standards, excepting that of the world of Hollywood. This difficulty is portrayed beautifully by Binoche, who goes from rhapsodizing about her glory days to shouting her frustration, all the while sometimes seemingly helpless without Valentine, who sometimes seems ready to move on to her own creative projects, leaving you to wonder how much the play is going to be mirrored by the characters in the film.
Both women give wonderful performances, with a role that let’s Stewart’s limitations as an actress work very much in her favor for the character. She won the Cesar Award for the role, which is the French equivalent to the Academy Awards.
The farther into the film you get, the more philosophical it can become, with an unexpected twist that leaves you thinking. It also is filled with amazing outdoor scenery that makes you want to travel to France, which is sometimes used as the backdrop for conversation that isn’t as interesting as one might hope.
The film does have some problems, as the story can get boring. There is a difference between a film that stands on great dialogue rather than heavy plot, but this film is neither. The dialogue isn’t interesting enough to really hold your interest, and the plot really doesn’t sustain a full-length film. As great as the performances are, they don’t make up for that flaw.
This film is unlikely to appeal to Kristen Stewart’s fans, and while it’s pretty and has great performances, it’s not really worth the two hours of time to watch. While it had a lot of initial buzz when it was first released, there is a reason that buzz didn’t result in any film award nominations.
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