Divorce is one of those life events no one prepares you for. (Take it from me, a person who has been divorced.) Because the subject is everywhere — in statistics, pop culture, and maybe even your own family unit — we kind of expect that if it must happen to us, then we’ll on some level know how proceed. (Just me?) The awful reality, though, is so much more complicated; it’s a messy emotional cocktail of guilt, relief, disappointment, anxiety, and anger. It’s also a process Kacey Musgraves, who filed for divorce from ex Ruston Kelly last year, tries to navigate throughout her masterful new album, Star-Crossed.
Amplifying the album’s overarching theme into a series of surrealist, through-the-looking-glass scenes is Musgraves’ accompanying film, which premieres today on Paramount+. Directed by Matthew Libatique (A Star Is Born, Black Swan) and featuring cameos from Eugene Levy, Victoria Pedretti, Princess Nokia, Drag Race star Symone, and comedian Megan Stalter, the Star-Crossed film offers a deeper look into Musgraves’ psyche as it pertains to divorce. The result is magnetic, colorful, stylish, at times hilarious, tragic, and surreal. A movie might be linear, but starting over is not, and in the Musgraves Extended Universe, new beginnings mean trashing a bridal boutique, undergoing broken-heart surgery, running alongside a stallion, and voguing at the club with your friends.
Just like the album, Star-Crossed also plays out over the course of three acts, with Musgraves marching through the California desert, defiantly wearing a wedding gown and preparing to enter a small, Kill Bill-looking chapel. (I think we all remember what happened to Uma Thurman’s Bride.) The first act, “I Just Want To Be A Good Wife,” eventually finds the country-pop crossover meeting up with a brightly dressed girl gang (including Victoria Pedretti, Princess Nokia, and Symone), who proceed to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting bridal boutique. “Wish I could put this game on pause / Skip this round, take the headset off / Put my lipgloss on / Kick it at the mall like there’s nothing wrong,” Musgraves soundtracks, expressing a human desire for “simple times” when life gets complicated.
Despite wrecking that boutique, thus ruining another bride’s “say yes to the dress” moment, Musgraves yanks us back into her marriage mindset. If she could just do all of the “good wife” things (“bring him coffee in bed, try to loosen up and be more fun”), maybe she could make this work? Soon, she’s attending “good wife” etiquette classes in a nondescript all-purpose room (how very The Lobster), with dozens of blonde-wigged Stepfords learning how to look after a home and not cause any trouble. As Musgraves obediently sets the table and irons, she prays for guidance: “God help me be a good wife, ’cause he needs me… And I know that I need him.”
Despite her best efforts, Musgraves still finds herself hurtling forward in her car as the second act arrives and the weather rapidly changes outside her window, mirroring the jumbled emotions found in “Justified” (“Moving backwards, hurt comes after / Healing doesn’t happen in a straight line”). Then, as our phones always do, Musgraves’ reminds her that she has “MEMORIES” to review. The constant dinging sends her careening headfirst into an oncoming truck, and what follows is a hyper-literal look at what divorce feels like: being china-doll shattered and clumsily fitting yourself back together.
A literally broken Musgraves gets carted off into the Star-Crossed Center (“for broken hearts and such”), where she is reassembled by Dr. Eugene Levy (“I know you’re feeling kind of all over the place,” he cracks). With a little bad bedside humor and a metal breastplate, Musgraves is up and running through the LA River alongside a stallion. She’s ready for the final act: “There Is A Light.”
As the film comes full circle, Musgraves swaps her white wedding dress for a crimson gown, singing a striking cover of Violeta Parra’s “Gracias A La Vida.” Translated, the opening words mean, “Thanks to life, which has given me so much.” Musgraves has so much to be thankful for. That’s the good part about starting over. Eventually, getting through each day involves a little less effort. This is clearly the case for Musgraves, who, post-surgery at the Star-Crossed Center, is ready to go out dancing at the disco. “There is a light inside of me, uh-huh,” she acknowledges. Now, walking away from the little Kill Bill-looking wedding chapel, which has a sign in the window advertising annulments for $15.95 (if only dissolving a marriage was really that cheap), Musgraves is on her own again, but undoubtedly stronger than before.