by Mark Ahn
Kristen Stewart plays Valentine, a personal assistant to global acting icon Maria Enders, played by Juliette Binoche. In the world of the movie, Maria Enders is on par with a Meryl Streep-type in terms of talent and cultural cachet, but is not above appearing in superhero movies, as mentioned in passing conversation. Maria’s fame was born through a role in a play (and subsequent movie) where she played the role of a young, calculating woman who charms, seduces, and then destroys her older female boss. Valentine sets up a meeting for Maria with a popular theater director, who wants to cast Maria in a remake of the play, but this time playing the older woman. The younger woman, the new seductress, is played by Chloe Grace Moretz.
The conversations take on a different tone as they work on Maria’s lines for the new play, and the boundary between Maria’s and Valentine’s reality blurs with the fictional world of the women of the play, to the point where it is difficult to discern whether the dialogue is a genuine conversation between the two women or the lines of the play they’re rehearsing.
As fascinating as Maria’s and Valentine’s relationship can be, that narrative thread could potentially just circle around infinitely. The impetus that breaks the circle is Chloe Grace Moretz’s character, who in the world of the movie, is a mash-up of younger Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson, and Lindsay Lohan: a young talent who knows how to use modern media and sometimes makes questionable, but highly publicized, decisions. Her presence brings all of the fears inherent to an aging actress faced with a younger actress to the forefront, and the lines between Maria and Valentine, blurry to begin with, warp further in new directions. It is how Maria and Valentine deal with this new dynamic which ultimately influences the resolution, a resolution which in some ways is as stark and mysterious as the beautiful and treacherous setting in which it takes place.