Cole, a celebrated yet troubled musician, searches for inspiration to record his next project. Consumed by superstardom’s spotlight and a regiment of drugs, Cole falls into a personal void in the fictional music biopic redux Taurus.
The latest from writer/director Tim Sutton continues the ambient filmmaker’s penchant for narratives centered around ripped-from-the-headlines developments. Where previous efforts, like Dark Knight, ruminated on mass shootings’ tragic senselessness, Taurus steeps itself in the all-too-common parable haunting celebrity figureheads addicted to a cocktail of drugs, excess, and self-destructive thoughts.
Sutton’s subject matter is exceedingly relevant, and while Taurus only develops into a semi-formed meditation, the filmmaker conjures an intimate snapshot of an all-too-common reality.
Sutton greatly benefits from centering his tale around his incendiary star performer. Known best by his Machine Gun Kelly moniker, Colson Baker has already built a robust resume as an actor (The Dirt and Captive State). The aptly-named role of Cole offers the rapper/rockstar his most personal project yet. It’s an opportunity he seizes with an aching, career-best performance.
Unlike his half-baked stoner comedy Good Mourning, Taurus is the anthesis of a vanity project for Baker. The actor imbues a few personal demons in his insular performance, but the role aligns more with a performative realization of the nightmarish journey affecting several celebrity talents. As Cole, Baker sulks around in a drug-laced trance of anxiety, overwhelmed by his own existence as a marquee figure shouldering inescapable anguish. The actor’s withdrawn delivery and explosive bursts of frustration help articulate a character suffocating inside the airless pop culture bubble.
For Sutton, Taurus is a natural extension of his atmospheric filmmaking aesthetics. He and Cinematographer John Brawley operate the camera with technical aplomb, maneuvering through Cole’s rollercoaster existence through precise tracking shots and alluring lighting choices. From lively club nights to expressive recording sessions, Sutton entrenches viewers in a sense of place that always feels uneasy despite the numerous luxuries.
While proficient as a filmmaker, Sutton remains inconsistent as a screenwriter. I respect his cinéma vérité approach to storytelling, but his slice-of-life perspective often restricts his films’ grander insights. What Sutton perceives as incisive on the page can occasionally derail in meandering moments of emptiness. Like with Dark Knight, Sutton’s dialogue also features its fair share of didactic and heavy-handed exchanges. The screenplay’s weaknesses ultimately prevent Taurus from developing a profound portrait of celebrity ensnared within the callous gaze of social media culture.
For all its warts, Taurus still entrances in its surrealist vision of a musician’s descent into madness. If anything, the film should serve as another welcomed reminder of Colson Baker’s acting chops.
TAURUS will be in Theaters, On Demand and Digital on November 18, 2022.
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