The Neon Demon, for some, might be a unique experience but for me it told an age old story and when you strip away the bizarre scenes and over-stylezed sequences (which I generally liked in terms of the look), there’s nothing new here.
The Neon Demon
Genre(s): Drama, Horror, Thriller
Broad Green | R – 117 min. – $24.99 | September 27, 2016
Date Published: 09/29/2016 | Author: The Movieman
THE MOVIE — 1.75/5
Nicolas Winding Refn is certainly not your typical, cut-and-paste, director especially following the out-there Only God Forgives which seemed to be the start of descent into insanity. The Neon Demon is a movie that tells a very familiar story in a very unfamiliar kind of way.
Jesse (ELLE FANNING) is a 16-year-old girl from Nowhersville USA coming to the bright lights of Los Angeles to become a model. A few days prior, she is befriended by a man named Dean (KARL GLUSMAN) who, upon the film’s opening, takes some promo pics for her to give at a meeting with a rep agency headed by Roberta Hoffmann (CHRISTINA HENDRICKS). From there, she receives a rare interview with a auteur photographer (DESMOND HARRINGTON) and also becomes friends with make-up artist Ruby (JENA MALONE).
Meanwhile, she meets the darker, underbelly of the fashion industry, and the City of Angels, from the manager of a seedy motel (KEANU REEVES), an infatuated designer (an uncredited ALESSANDRO NIVOLA) and two jealous models, Gigi (BELLA HEATHCOTE) and Sarah (ABBEY LEE), who have been in the business longer and are, to say the least, peeved Jesse is more or less cutting ahead in the line and getting top and coveted gigs.
This leads Jesse down a path where she turns from the innocent girl from Nowheresville USA to famous model at the top in the industry, as demonstrated in a sequence involving triangles turning from blue to red and Jesse kissing herself in a mirror. This is one of many not-so-subtle symbolic scenes that, for me, verged on being pretentious rather than clever or innovative. Of course, it looks fantastic so Refn has that going for him, shame the story is so thin and lacks very much substance outside of criticism of the fashion industry which Zoolander probably did a better job of several years ago.
My issue with The Neon Demon is once you strip away the oddities, which to me was done just to be odd, it’s the same old story we’ve seen in numerous other movies and television shows in some form or, pardon the pun, fashion. Sure, there are two scenes that are “shocking” with one rarely seen outside of the occasional German flick, and yet it didn’t really serve the story. The ending itself might’ve surprised people but I suppose I’ve seen enough horror films that it didn’t affect me all that much and only hit the message a bit too much on the nose (again).
On the plus side, I did think Elle Fanning turns in a great performance, showing that she could have a nice career ahead of her and Jena Malone worked well opposite Fanning and perhaps was the bigger surprise of the entire cast. Desmond Harrington has a limited role as a creepy photographer and Keanu Reeves had a few decent scenes but his character doesn’t go anywhere and after an incident midway, disappears entirely; Christina Hendricks obviously did Refn a favor previously appearing in Drive and appears in only one scene; while Abbey Lee certainly had the fright factor down for the what I assume is now an infamous finale.
In the end, The Neon Demon, in spite of its detractors (myself included) has just enough style going for it that it could be remembered for years to come in combination with Fanning and Malone’s performances which were standouts in an otherwise messy film that borrowed elements from Kubrick and Argento. If you’re one of the few who liked Only God Forgives, and are a fan of Refn in general, this might work for you.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.0/5
Audio Commentary – Writer/Director Nicolas Winding Refn and Actress Elle Fanning (making her commentary debut) sit down for a fun, and at times light-hearted, track offering up information on little tid-bits on a variety of subjects like fake blood, filming locations and casting.
Behind the Soundtrack of The Neon Demon (5:08; HD) looks at the wonderful score/soundtrack (which I now own) for the film where Refn speaks to how the music works within the story.
About The Neon Demon (1:12; HD) is a basic promotional featurette.
VIDEO – 4.75/5
|Shot digitally, The Neon Demon is presented with a 1080p high-definition transfer and show in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio. I might’ve not liked the film, but there’s no doubt that it looks utterly fantastic. Colors have amazing pop throughout, really keeping with the word “Neon” from the title and detail was relatively sharp while dark levels appeared stark yet objects or persons were still well defined.
AUDIO – 3.75/5
|The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is pretty good all in all though hardly perfect. While Cliff Martinez’s hypnotic score and the music resounded quite well through every channel, front and rears in particular, dialogue was a tad uneven. At times it was nice and clear and yet there was one scene near the end where it sounded awfully low. I’m not sure why or if it has something to do with the mix, but it did take my score down a slight notch.
OVERALL – 2.5/5
Overall, The Neon Demon, for some, might be a unique experience but for me it told an age old story and when you strip away the bizarre scenes and over-stylezed sequences (which I generally liked in terms of the look), there’s nothing new here. However, Elle Fanning and Jena Malone turned in impressive performances with honorable mention going to Desmond Harrington. This at best is a rental but I suspect this could have better staying power.
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.