Time: 118 minutes
Age Rating: Violence, Horror, Sexual Material and Necrophilia
Elle Fanning as Jesse
Karl Glusman as Dean
Jena Malone as Ruby
Bella Heathcote as Gigi
Abbey Lee as Sarah
Desmond Harrington as Jack McCarther
Christina Hendricks as Roberta Hoffman
Keanu Reeves as Hank
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Jesse (Elle Fanning) moves to Los Angeles just after her 16th birthday to launch a career as a model. The head of her agency tells the innocent teen that she has the qualities to become a top star. Jesse soon faces the wrath of ruthless vixens who despise her fresh-faced beauty. On top of that, she must contend with a seedy motel manager and a creepy photographer. As Jesse starts to take the fashion world by storm, her personality changes in ways that could help her against her cutthroat rivals.
The Neon Demon was one of my most anticipated films of 2016, this is the second film from Nicolas Winding Refn I’ve seen, after Drive. Drive was an absolutely fantastic film, I loved it, so naturally I was excited to see his upcoming film. After seeing this film, I have to say, I absolutely loved The Neon Demon. Visually stunning, excellently performed, everything here was great. Understandably, not everyone will like this movie, due to it not having a straightforward story and some of its weirdness will alienate some. I’m just glad I’m one of the people who loved it.
There are a few things that you have to know before going in. This film is slowly paced quite a bit, part of that is due to the fact that The Neon Demon is also very artistic, with many visual sequences showing symbolism and metaphors. This really isn’t surprising as Refn is known for being more of a visual director. Although this film sort of has a plot, it doesn’t have a very straightforward story, there are many different ways to interpret this movie. This may turn off and come across as pretentious for some viewers, but I personally loved the story that Refn told. The last act is completely nuts, having a complete change in tone, turning into straight up horror. While that change was a little jarring, I loved the last act, even though at times it could get ridiculously over the top at times. I’ve also heard from many that this is Refn’s most disturbing movie yet, I’ve not seen Only God Forgives or many of his other films aside from Drive but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the case. I won’t say what happens in this movie to avoid spoilers (as I found many of them out before watching the movie), but let’s just say I can understand why this movie turned a lot of people off…
The performances from everyone was excellent. Elle Fanning was really good in the role of the main character, she goes through a form of transformation in the film, and along with the visuals of the film from Refn, she conveys that expertly. All the supporting cast did great jobs as well. Jena Malone was a standout for me, there are certain stand out scenes that she’s involved with which (I won’t spoil) I have to say are very daring, she’s fantastic. Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee were really great as two of models who become jealous of Elle’s character. Keanu Reeves also plays a small part in the movie as the seedy hotel manager, he’s only in a few scenes but he still manages to leave an impression, it was a very different character for him to play.
This film quite possibly has the best cinematography all year, which really isn’t surprising as it’s directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. I can’t really comment on whether its Refn’s best looking film yet (as I haven’t seen any of his films aside from Drive) but it looks so gorgeous. The use of colour also makes the film absolutely beautiful, visually this film is perfect. Also the soundtrack by Cliff Martinez is absolutely europhoric, memorable, it really added a lot of the movie.
This movie really isn’t for everyone however, whether that be the lurid content, the slow pacing or the visual storytelling. If you want a more straightforward plot, this isn’t your film. For me though, The Neon Demon is one of my favourite films of the year. This film is a reminder that I really need to see more of Nicolas Winding Refn’s films, with this film and Drive, he’s already becoming one of my favourite directors.