There’s a scene near the beginning of Lana Del Rey’s video for the title track of this, her debut album, where her expression momentarily collapses and then she reacts to keep the tears from falling. If it were part of a movie, you’d think it expertly acted, and expect to see Del Rey’s name cast in the sequence of Hollywood “it” girls from Angelina Jolie to Scarlett Johansson to Zooey Deschanel on down.
Ironically, it’s for acting that Del Rey has encountered stout resistance. Since Elizabeth Grant emerged in this role last year, she has been fought tooth-and-nail by bloggers who thought the major labels were no longer capable of scripting hype – appalled that such a clear fabrication could be so embraced by the Pitchfork generation. Her aborted, earlier attempt at pop stardom (as Lizzy Grant) was “exposed” as if some contemptible hypocrisy; January’s “Saturday Night Live” performance was deemed unmerited and hastily savaged in a way that would make Simon Cowell proud. Never mind that other television appearances went well (“Later With Jools Holland,” for instance), or that last year’s singles “Blue Jeans” and “Video Games” completely merited attention, or that Lady Gaga’s and Odd Future’s contrivances hold firm: thou shalt not trifle with sanctimonious indie hegemony.
Would that Born To Die completed the fairytale, and Del Rey repaid the faith of her courtiers. But the actress, it turns out, doesn’t show any range. Like Michael Cera or Vin Diesel, she applies the same approach to almost every syllable, and when she doesn’t (her alluring squeaks on “Off To The Races”) the exceptions prove the rule. And it’s a shame. Not because the uniform, noir production deserves more – to the contrary, it’s an accomplice – or the screenplay is Mamet-sharp (“Take a walk on the wild side”! Really?), but because of those squeaks, because of that scene in “Born To Die.”
Either Del Rey’s having a laugh at the chaos she’s created, or her inability to deliver on her campaign is a mortal flaw. It beggars belief that Born To Die not only fails to build on “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans,” but relies on them. As flashes in the pan go, this sets some kind of record. That her hype died a sudden death on January 31st is probably little consolation to her foes, same with the fact she’s set herself up for a nice little career in acting.
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