Home Reviews Review: Clouds of Sils Maria

Review: Clouds of Sils Maria

Juliette Binoche stars in Sundance Selects' "Clouds of Sils Maria"

Aside from a truly enigmatic and compelling performance from Kristen Stewart Clouds of Sils Maria offers very little on a cinematic scale. Maria (Juliette Binoche) is asked to partake in the play revival of the show that made her name twenty years ago. Now however, a younger actress is asked to play her role (Chloë Grace Moretz) while the idea of age takes its hold on Maria’s mindset. She and her assistant Valentine (Stewart) travel to the Sils Maria, a remote region in the Alps to rehearse. However, more often than not the rehearsals turn into self-reflection between the two women, particularly Maria, leading to tension between the two of them.

Director Oliver Assayas has made a movie about a subject that ideally would have fit in an 90 minute film but has instead stretched it beyond its limits to just over two hours. Clearly finding beauty in the setting, Assayas spends more time on the visuals than his subjects, making for a decidedly pretty but hollow film.
Films about the fear of aging are a theme that has been explored before, many times so when a filmmaker approaches it they should offer up some kind of insight that we haven’t witnessed before. The Clouds of Sils Maria is a film very content meditating on what has already been said before with strong performers rooted at its core.

Binoche is a wildly talented actress and make the most minimal role interesting with her presence alone but even she can’t instill much intrigue into Maria’s character. Moretz has an affected presence that works for the character she’s playing but doesn’t get enough time to really delve into her character. Luckily this seems marginally intentional. Jo-Ann is how Maria and to an extent, Valentine sees her. She’s either the shallow young actress or the talented ingénue. She isn’t a character in a film and more a character of Maria’s perceptions.

The movies greatest strength was Stewart who has moved far past her Twilight fame.

Stewart hasn’t gotten rid of all of her tics, but regardless of some beats played the way you’d expect, she was a winningly charming presence. More than Binoche or Moretz, she embodies her character Valentine as a fully formed human, even though she’s given the least amount of backstory. Stewart has shown in the past in films such as The Runaways and Adventureland that her talent is further reaching than what Twilight would have suggested. If she continues with performances such as these where her presence is simple yet alluring, working with directors who push her, her career path should be one worth following.

There’s a genuine interest at the start of the film about the parallels between Maria’s experience and her character in the play. Maria’s self-worth is based on the character she’s playing and the more and more she reads her lines the more and more her life begins to feel tangled. Playing an older woman lusting over a younger one whose position is dominant makes her insecure, needing Valentine to support her. Valentine on the other hand is self-assured, young and has no qualms about what she likes and why she likes it. The two women’s relationship and interplay is when the film is at its best and Binoche and Stewart share a palpable chemistry.

The film’s failings are in the final third when any interest begins to wane as the story comes full circle and simply starts again. It’s a film that lacks focus and that’s interest lies solely in its characters but never spends enough time with them. Frustratingly, this film could have been amazing had it spent the time finely editing the fine scenes where suddenly the film loses its focus and its need to flesh out its characters.
The films most exceptional moments are its quietest ones, in between rehearsals, when Valentine and Maria discussed the play and its motives and the characters involved. The characters and Stewart in particular were the beating heart of the film and what the story needed more of.

Rating: R

Director: Oliver Assayas

Juliette Binoche
Kristen Stewart
Chloë Grace Moretz
Lars Eidinger
Johnny Flynn
Hanns Zischler
Brady Corbet

Film Length: 123 minutes

Release Date: April 17, 2015

Distributor: Sundance Selects

  • Ella Hunt stars in Orion Pictures' ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE

    Review: Anna and the Apocalypse

    Anna and the Apocalypse is a multitude of things pushed into a small package. It’s a…
  • (L-R) Ando Sakura, Matsuoka Mayu, Sasaki Miyu, Jyo Kairi and Lily Franky star in Magnolia Pictures' SHOPLIFTERS

    Review: Shoplifters (Manbiki kazoku)

    Shoplifters isn’t the type of movie that we’re used to seeing in this day and …
  • Michael B. Jordan stars in MGM and Warner Bros. Pictures' CREED II

    Review: Creed II

    There were a ton of questions surrounding Creed II. That’s primarily because Ryan Co…
  • Sarah Silverman and John C. Reilly star in Walt Disney's RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET

    Review: Ralph Breaks the Internet

    Wreck-It Ralph popped up and surprised a lot of people when it was released by becoming on…
  • (L-r) Mathilde Ollivier and Jovan Adepo star in Paramount Pictures' OVERLORD

    Review: Overlord

    Overlord isn’t the type of WWII movie that’s looking to offer historical accur…
  • Melissa McCarthy stars in Fox Searchlight's CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

    Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

    The thing about some modern low-budget films is that they’re often times closer to t…
Load More Related Articles
  • Mark Ruffalo, Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide star in Sony Picture Classics' "Infinitely Polar Bear"

    Review: Infinitely Polar Bear

    Cameron (Mark Ruffalo) is manic depressive who after a stint of being hospitalized, is on …
  • Britt Robertson stars in Disney's "Tomorrowland"

    Review: Tomorrowland

    Throughout the run time of the new George Clooney vehicle I kept waiting for a moment that…
  • Carey Mulligan stars in Fox Searchlight's "Far From the Madding Crowd"

    Review: Far From the Madding Crowd

    Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) is a remarkable character. I have never read the novel…
Load More By Allyson Johnson
Load More In Reviews

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also

Review: Infinitely Polar Bear

Cameron (Mark Ruffalo) is manic depressive who after a stint of being hospitalized, is on …