Cert 12a | ★☆☆☆☆
Clouds of Sils Maria takes the acting profession so seriously the entire script could be printed off and submitted to Private Eye’s Luvvies column. Juliette Binoche plays a fading Hollywood star, Kristen Stewart her assistant, and together they hit every cliché short of air-kissing and telling each other they’re marvelous.
Maria Enders (Binoche) is preparing for a role in a play about a lesbian affair between a 20-year-old and an older woman. She’s playing the latter, but it was her performance as the former that launched her Hollywood career decades before. When her assistant helps her with her lines, the boundaries between art and life become ucomfortably blurred.
Binoche and Stewart perform well together, but no amount of chemistry can redeem the poisonous blend of self-pity and pretention affecting both their characters. Swanning from luxury hotel to private members bar, talking about how “incredibly powerful” so-and-so’s performance was in something or other, it’s hard to feel anything but irriation for either of them.
The meta stuff – Enders resembles her character, Binoche resembles Enders – makes everything worse because every time Enders feels sorry for herself, like when diddums is forced to wear a Chanel dress to present an award, the self-pity seems real. And when Stewart’s character dismisses Hollywood as shallow, you feel it’s really coming from the heart, which makes you want to shake her and say: if being rich and famous is so awful then maybe you shouldn’t have made so many “young adult” adaptations with Taylor Lautner.
There are some beautifully imagined sequences, but Clouds of Sils Maria is ruined by the unnerving feeling that you’re watching a narcissistic movie-star playing a narcisstic movie-star. Writer-director Olivier Assayas clearly believes acting is the one of the most intellectually and emotionally draining things you can possibly do, a tough proposition to accept if you’ve got anything resembling a real job.