Nicholas Winding Refn (Drive [high up on my favorites list], [the abysmal] Only God Forgives) and Cliff Martinez (ditto) have teamed up once again to bring forth a new movie featuring beautiful scenery, subtle themes, mesmerizing music, and, of course, actors taking long pauses to gaze into their colleague’s eyes before delivering their lines. The Neon Demon puts a magnifying glass up against the ROTTEN underbelly of the L.A. fashion industry and the obsessed models attempting to claw their way to the top. Elle Fanning’s (Super 8) sixteen-year-old new-in-town model Jesse starts off sweet and innocent but soon starts blossoming into something she can’t take back, leaving her to question how far she will go and if it is all really worth it.
I am conflicted about this film because even though I didn’t like the direction it went after the first half I still can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe it is because of the decadent visuals and glossy score created by the tag team director/composer and the tension the characters’ struggles brought about. Or maybe it is because I was left wanting more. More gore, more shock, more DISGUST in the pit of my fifth-stomach. The Neon Demon has a tremendously executed build up, but right when shit is supposed to hit the fan it transforms into piss- and not even the right color piss, yellow-green piss, if that makes any sense.
Every year there are a few new movies I come across where I am not exactly certain of the genre going in. I assumed The Neon Demon wouldn’t be a total spook-fest but I was not amused with the amount of restraint it had when it came to being unnervingly MACABRE. I wouldn’t even label it as a horror film like it is currently being billed. A thriller/drama would be more suitable. After the final scene I didn’t know what to think. I laughed out loud, but I doubt that is the reaction Refn intended.
Desmond Harrington (Dexter), Alessandro Nivola (left uncredited for some odd reason) and Keanu Reeves did a great job showcasing three different levels of being a creep, with Keanu standing out in particular. The trio of girls that “befriend” Jesse also showed off great acting chops, emanating a strain of sickness by way of desire, competitiveness and delusion. Although there are a handful of mildly unsettling things scattered about in The Neon Demon, nothing about it truly CHILLS my spine. Hopefully next time Refn tries building a film of this stature he ends up with a more successful result and the story lives up to the cast’s captivating performances.
3 stomachs out of 5
(P.S. Starry Eyes did it better!)