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An intriguing film about an actress who performs in a remake of the play which was her breakout role. However, rather than be her original part, she plays the part of the older woman and it is almost like life reflects art.
Review (with Spoilers)
Characters & Story
After 20 years, Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) revisits the play “Maloja Snake” in which she played Sigrid and began her career. However, now she is to play Helena, the woman seduced by Sigrid, who is to be played by up and comer Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloe Grace Moretz). But, on the path to the opening night, we see Maria, with personal assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) deal with the trauma which comes from revisiting this play from a different angle, especially 20 years later where, as much as she identifies as Sigrid, she sees the possibility of being Helena.
Being that I’m a fan of Stewart and Moretz, that was what originally brought me into this movie. For while I have seen Binoche in A Thousand Times Good Night, she didn’t perform so well that I felt the need to watch her career. Something which she doesn’t necessarily do with this film either, however with Stewart and Moretz playing off her, it is hard to say who is challenging who sometimes. For as much as Maria seems to be the one in control, as we learn about “Maloja Snake,” and see Maria and Valentine read lines, it becomes hard to tell when lines are being read, or feelings are being expressed. For while we are given the idea that Maria is heterosexual, there is this chemistry between Binoche and Stewart which makes you questions things a bit. To the point you are unsure if despite Jo-Ann being cast as Sigrid, Valentine is the one who really shows Maria how to feel as Helena does.
Perhaps the main thing I can criticize is there isn’t a strong hook here. Yes, the performances are good, especially when Binoche and Stewart are playing off one another, but there is nothing which stirs your emotions or leads you to wonder what happens next. Clouds of Sils Maria is just a quality film and doesn’t pursue being exemplary.
Overall: TV Viewing
With no strong draw, but good performances, unfortunately, this can only be considered a strong TV Viewing film. For while all those involved perform well, the chemistry is good, and I like how Maria and Valentine sort of mirror Sigrid and Helena, there isn’t anything here but people showing up for work and doing what they are supposed to. Not to imply they dial it in, but the film just feels like it is missing something crucial to be worth seeing.
“To excel, and to know how to show it, is to excel twice.”
— Clouds of Sils Maria
“We’re not allowed to regret anything. If we’re sincere then we are the sum total of our experiences with no exceptions.”
— Clouds of Sils Maria