Machine Gun Kelly plays a tormented musician – The Hollywood Reporter

As a portrait of a self-destructing celebrity, Taurus is unquestionably convincing. Writer-director Tim Sutton isn’t pulling any punches – both the music industry she’s settled into and the artist at its center look abjectly miserable, with few promising signs of change – and lead actor Colson Baker delivers an engaging performance, drawing authenticity from his time working as rap/rock star Machine Gun Kelly.

What is less clear, however, is to what end all this suffering is being served. While Taurus eventually gets to make a point – something about how the toxic combination of fame, addiction and the music business can destroy a young talent – ​​it feels like for most of its 98 minutes a plotless meander through the very gruesome of a dude’s week.


The essential

Convincingly miserable, but to what end?

Place: Berlin International Film Festival (Panorama)
To throw: Colson Baker, Maddie Hasson, Scoot McNairy, Demetrius “Lil Meech” Flenory Jr., Naomi Wild, Ruby Rose, Lil Tjay, Megan Fox
Director-screenwriter: Tim Sutton

1 hour 38 minutes

Taurus introduces three key characters in the opening minutes. One is an unnamed little boy (TK Weaver) whose life is shattered by a horrific incident. Another is Lena (Naomi Wild), a rising singer awaiting her big break. But the full significance of these two won’t be revealed until much later. Taurus is first and foremost about Cole (Baker), a musician whose boundless success seems to be matched only by his bottomless desperation. Fresh off tour and recently divorced, he throws himself into drugs, booze, strip clubs and call girls whenever he’s not being dragged from an interminable meeting or interview to another one.

Sutton does not cover the intolerable emptiness of Cole’s existence. Sometimes his camera weaves through LA traffic as Cole dodges cars. Other times, Sutton conveys Cole’s state of mind through surreal touches, such as a phone conversation that Cole experiences as a performance in front of a laughing crowd. The afternoons seem even more brutal, as in a scene where Cole returns with vomit caked on the front of his shirt.

Despite all his pain and anger, Cole is not a soulless monster. He’s engaged when working on music with fellow rapper Lil Tjay (playing himself) and tender when thinking of his daughter Rosie (Avery Essex), though he’s often too screwed up to really be a parent. . But he can be cold to his fans and cruel to his assistant Ilana (Maddie Hasson), who tends to him with an almost brotherly sense of loyalty. It would be easy to hate him, were it not for the fact that he already seems to hate himself more than anyone else.

As in many films where real famous musicians play fictional famous musicians (including this month’s very different Marry me), Taurus borrows from the real-life career and image of its star to help flesh out that of its protagonist. Cole may not be Machine Gun Kelly per se. But the two share the same aesthetic and sound — Baker gets a “music by” credit on the film, which incorporates some of his existing songs as well as footage from his Lollapalooza set last summer. They even have seemingly similar tastes in women, with Baker’s fiancee Megan Fox appearing in a wordless cameo as Cole’s ex.

So when Baker launches into a story about how alienating this life can be, it’s easy to buy that it’s grounded in reality. Everyone in Cole’s orbit, including Cole, seems to view him as something between a prize pony and a tough toddler. It’s hard to say which came first: the endless team of dog handlers guarding a grown man day and night like he couldn’t be expected to control himself, or the out-of-control behavior that required an endless team of dog handlers to guard it. day and night. Either way, it’s obvious that Cole is a victim of the circumstances he’s trapped in.

Or Taurus hesitates to show us what else he is. Sutton is good at sketching out what type of character Cole is meant to be. A shot of him in the studio, a shot of him walking through a screaming crowd, and a shot of him walking out after the show are pretty much all we need to figure out he’s a troubled musician feeling disillusioned. and disconnected; it’s a recognizable pattern among countless other movies about the entertainment industry. Corn Taurus never shows us who Cole is beyond those familiar beats – which makes him particularly magnetic or infuriating, who he is outside of his problems.

The same time, TaurusThe laser focus on Cole leaves little room for anyone else’s curiosity. Cole may be self-centered, but from what we see of his life, he’s not wrong in assuming that the universe revolves around him. The film spends so much time patiently cataloging its daily life that after 50 minutes, I still had no idea what the story arc was supposed to be, or if it was supposed to have one at all. Every character that isn’t Cole is defined almost entirely by their relationship to Cole. Even tragedies that have almost nothing to do with him – like the one involving the aforementioned little boy – are reduced to fodder for Cole’s personal journey.

For his part, Cole seems to see himself as part of a longer line of idols to worship and then sacrifice. In an interview, he compares himself to the babies sacrificed by the Mayans: “The same people who loved them and made them feel special were the same people who threw them into those underwater caves. He’s right, although it’s been brought up many times before. But that can’t help but ring hollow coming from a movie that itself seems to view Cole as another cautionary tale, rather than an individual soul worth knowing for his own good.