Clouds of Sils Maria Review
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In this digital world, our lives are instant and often exposed—our everyday experiences revealed through uploaded images, short video clips, and frequent status updates. Celebrity, meanwhile, is immediate yet fleeting—often depending less on talent than on Internet gossip. So in the unhurried drama Clouds of Sils Maria, a middle-aged actress steps away from the constant noise and the frantic pace of everyday life to wrestle with her changing career and her new viewpoint.

Clouds of Sils Maria stars Juliette Binoche as Maria Enders, an international star who’s on her way to accept an award on behalf of the legendary playwright and filmmaker who launched her career when she learns of his sudden death. While mourning her old friend’s passing, Maria agrees to take part in a revival of the play that made her a star. This time, however, she’ll be playing Helena, a businesswoman who’s driven to suicide by her affair with a manipulative younger woman.

  
 
To prepare for the production, Maria travels to the Alps with her assistant, Valentine (Kristen Stewart). But she soon finds herself struggling with both her new role and her new perspective on the story.

There are number of different ideas interwoven throughout this slow and scenic drama. On the surface, it’s simply a film about an aging actress who’s forced to reflect on her ever-changing career as she prepares for a challenging new role. But it’s also about the relationship between the actress and her able assistant, who does much more than just schedule meetings and run interference with the press. Valentine is also Maria’s constant companion—her friend, confidant, and sometimes maybe even her muse. Meanwhile, the film is also about Hollywood—about the scandals, the gossip, and the new face of Internet celebrity. Those interconnected observations are sure to give audiences plenty to contemplate as the characters run through lines of dialogue while hiking around their remote hideaway in the Alps.

The story, however, is as deliberate and meandering as the mist that makes its way through the film’s striking Swiss mountain setting. Characters come and go as the spotlight shifts from one thought to the next—which can often make the film feel unfocused and even unbalanced.

Still, despite the unhurried pacing, the cast and their characters take viewers on an intriguing journey. While Stewart has earned both awareness and awards for her often surprising performance as Valentine, Binoche shows more grit and depth as the struggling star—and Chloë Grace Moretz shakes everything up as Maria’s self-destructive young co-star. And, together, they tell a fascinating, though sometimes puzzling story of character and celebrity.

Clouds of Sils Maria certainly isn’t a simple film—and it certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s strange and sleepy and not entirely satisfying. Yet, thanks to the talented cast and the film’s thoughtful observations, you might just find that it’s a challenging but worthwhile experience.


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