Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is a middle-aged star actress who became famous 20 years earlier when she had the main role in the play “The Maloja Snake.” The play was about a woman in her 40’s – Helen – who falls in love and has an affair with a beautiful woman in her twenties (Maria’s original starring role), causing Helen’s downfall. The play’s title refers to the cloud formations near the town of Sils Maria in the Swiss Alps. A young, ambitious, and talented Director has hired Maria to feature in the re-make, but this time playing Helen. The 20’s ingenue role is going to be played by Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloe Grace Moretz) whose off-the-screen exploits make her a tabloid favorite. Maria goes to Sils Maria with her personal assistant, Valentine (Kristen Stewart), to rehearse the play. Val reads the younger woman’s lines while Maria reads Helen’s.
Maria has strong ambivalence about taking on the role, since she is so identified with the younger woman’s part, and has doubts about whether she can do Helen’s part justice. Maria and Valentine’s relationship also has strong parallels to the women in the play. To emphasize this aspect of their relationship, sometimes it’s difficult to know whether they are reading the play’s lines or talking to each other. They are both straight, but their relationship is intense, and it could potentially veer off into a romance. Further creating tension is the fact that Maria and Valentine have very different interpretations of the play and especially Helen’s role.
The Swiss Alps are beautiful and the film has some interesting and well-written scenes, but there’s too much dialogue and the plot doesn’t have quite enough going for it. Furthermore, I didn’t think the final phase of the Maria/Valentine relationship rang true.
Binoche does her usual fine job, and Stewart demonstrates she is a good actress, but it’s not worth a trip to the BS. At best, it’s an average rental.