Clouds of Sils Maria is an in-depth character study of a self-obsessed, aging actress who has alienated herself from the world and begins to be consumed by the play which started her career. Juliette Binoche is radiant and mad as Maria Enders and this performance shows a depth of range of passion rarely seen on the screen.
The film opens with Kristen Stewart playing Valentine, Enders personal assistant. She is juggling two cell phones while bouncing along on a train taking Enders to an award ceremony. The ceremony is to honor writer and director, Wilhelm Melcior. He is the man who cast Enders in her break-through role in a play named Majola Snake. Due to a series of unfortunate events, we never meet Melcior and he becomes a Shakespearian type specter in Ender’s journey back to the stage. Stewart has never looked more comfortable or natural in a role and she holds her own with the powerhouse performance of Binoche.
There is a beautiful interweaving of the themes of the play and Maria Enders journey back into it. When she was 18 and Melcior gave her the break in the play, it was in the role of Sigrid, a young assistant who seduces her older female superior. Now, 20 years later a new director reprising the show wants her to play the older woman, Helena, the one who is seduced, weak, pathetic. There are many times when it appears as if Val and Enders will follow the same path and become lovers and this adds to the general tension of the film.
Unfortunately the film becomes muddled with extra layers of unnecessary business. There are characters brought in on the edges and the main weakness of the film is the introduction of Chloe Grace Moretz as Jo-Ann Ellis. Ellis is a ball breaker, Lindsay Lohan type actress who at once intimidates and fascinates Maria. She’s cast as Sigrid, the part that Maria made famous, and this means that they will play lovers. Moretz stands out as awkward and inexperienced among the cast. Her performance feels more suited for a Disney sit-com then a foreign film.
Overall, Clouds of Sils Maria is well-crafted with beautiful cinematography, costumes, etc. If one goes in to the film not expecting a traditional story arc and is patient with the length and weak spots it’s a beautiful showcase for Binoche and Stewart.
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Release Date: April 10, select cities, May 1, Houston.
Director: Oliver Assayas
Writer: Oliver Assayas
Main Cast: Juliette Binoche, Kristin Stewart, Chloe Grace Moretz