In 'Star-Crossed' Film, Kacey Musgraves Picks Up the Pieces to Transform Her 'Trauma into Beauty'

The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter hosts a preview showing of the new movie, a fantasy telling of the before, during and after of her brief marriage to Ruston Kelly

Kacey Musgraves opened up this summer about her divorce from Ruston Kelly, saying in an ELLE interview that "I felt broken." Now in Star-Crossed, the companion film to her new album by the same name, the Grammy-winning artist has taken that feeling to its ultimate limits.

Among the more riveting sequences shows Musgraves literally in pieces. She does spare viewers the gore: They're all parts of a mannequin, except for her dismembered head, which is blithely singing "Camera Roll," one of the 15 tracks on the new album.

Both the 50-minute fever dream of a film, which Musgraves co-wrote and executive produced, and the long-awaited album are set for release this Friday, and on Tuesday night, she hosted a private screening for friends and industry insiders at Nashville's Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

kacey musgraves
Kacey Musgraves. Star-crossed: the film

Musgraves has made no secret that the end to her almost three-year marriage in July 2020 has provided the primary source material for both album and film, and there's a temptation to call these her "divorce projects." But even more so, they're artful meditations on heartbreak, and in her brief remarks onstage to introduce the film, Musgraves affirmed that assessment.

"I'm really thankful," she said, "for the opportunity to transform trauma into beauty."

And she added, like any nervous first-time filmmaker, "I hope you guys really enjoy this. I hope it doesn't suck!"

Musgraves needn't have worried. The film was rewarded with a standing ovation from the 200 or so in the audience, which included fellow Texan Maren Morris and her artist husband, Ryan Hurd; John and TJ Osborne of the Brothers Osborne, Lindsay Ell, BRELAND and Fancy Hagood, as well as Musgraves' new beau, Cole Shafer, a Nashville advertising copywriter and poet.

kacey musgraves
Kacey Musgraves. Sophia Matinazad

Indeed, Musgraves and director Bardia Zeinali (who's worked with Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa and Shawn Mendes, among others) have fashioned a phantasmagoria in three acts, loosely depicting the before, during and after of a marriage. Ten of the album's dreamy, vibey songs are prominently featured throughout, along with snippets of three more.

The film is populated with a carnival troupe's worth of colorful characters; what's conspicuously missing, however, is any depiction of a husband. And yet all of Star-Crossed revolves around that absence. Musgraves portrays a series of maritally related roles — groomless bride, marauding bridal-shop vandal, Stepford wife-in-training — before experiencing a head-on car crash that leaves her literally shattered. Once an ambulance team retrieves her body parts, she's reassembled, and her broken heart is revived.

The film's final third is a wild pastiche of past, present and future, featuring Musgraves in a foot race with a horse, at a church dance party, and undergoing a ceremonial costume change — all hastened along with ample assistance from an unspecified pharmaceutical.

The singer brings it to a close on a stirring, bittersweet note, performing "Gracias a la Vida" ("Thanks to Life"), a Latin American standard written by mid-20th-century Chilean folk artist Violeta Parra. (Notably, outside of a hidden track on Pageant Material, this is the first time that Musgraves has included a song on a studio album that she didn't co-write.)

kacey musgraves
Kacey Musgraves. Star-crossed: the film

Obviously, so much is happening on-screen that everyone will have endless fun watching and rewatching the film, interpreting and conjecturing what it all means. You also can become easily mesmerized by the eye-candy cast that Musgraves and Zeinali have curated to soothe, save, celebrate and conspire with the film's star. Scene-stealers include comedian Megan Stalter, who plays a bumbling arms dealer; Courtney Parchman (aka AverageFashionBlogger), who chews scenery as a hysterical bride; and Latinx singer-songwriter San Cha, who shows off her impressive pipes in a church scene.

Schitt's Creek dad Eugene Levy pops up as a hands-off surgeon; his mere appearance elicited laughter from Tuesday night's crowd. Musgraves also drops Easter egg-ish film references with the Lancaster, California, chapel that was featured in Kill Bill and a snippet from Olivia Hussey's death scene in the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet. Cast member Diane Venora, who plays multiple roles, is an Easter egg herself: The veteran actor portrayed Juliet's mother in 1996's Romeo + Juliet.

Star-Crossed: The Film debuts Friday exclusively on Paramount+ in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Australia, and Nordic countries, and on MTV outside of those markets. The album will be released simultaneously, and Musgraves will take her new music out on the road for a 15-date arena tour, starting on Jan. 19, 2022.

Related Articles