Amazon Studio’s The Neon Demon directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, is a sumptuous horror-thriller, set in the highly competitive and often vicious world of fashion modeling, where the term “eat their own” takes on a decidedly new meaning. When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will use any means necessary to get what she has. The film is co-written by Refn (Bronson, Drive, Only God Forgives, Valhalla Rising), Mary Laws (”Preacher”) and Polly Stenham; and stars Elle Fanning (Maleficent, Super 8), Karl Glusman (Love, Stonewall), Jena Malone (Inherent Vice, The Hunger Games series), Bella Heathcote (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dark Shadows), Abbey Lee (Gods of Egypt, Mad Max: Fury Road), with Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men,” Drive), and Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Matrix series).
What We Thought:
Where do I begin with The Neon Demon? The first 2/3rds of the film I would say is a combination of Mean Girls and Black Swan.
It starts out with Elle Fanning trying to get her foot in the door that is the world of modeling in Los Angeles. She does a job where she makes friends with a make up artist (Jena Malone). That’s easy enough to understand. Malone introduces her to other models in the club scene. She gets more jobs, goes to more events, etc.
This is where it gets Mean Girls-ish. The models don’t really like the new young girl with her real hair, real nose, real everything. She’s younger than they are and is seen as their rival (Black Swan-ish). Fanning starts booking gigs they want and the other models don’t like it.
All that I totally understand. Throw in a love interest, a possible pervy photographer, a very pervy hotel clerk (played scarily by Keanu Reeves) and I’m digging the movie at this point. I’m liking it a lot actually. The highlights and pitfalls of Los Angeles. I lived there before. I work in the movie industry now. I get it.
Then comes a curveball. I’d spoil it for you, but that would mean I understood what happened. I didn’t. Were the people vampires? Were they cannibals? Did they eat people to stay young looking? Was it simply a metaphor telling you that Hollywood can eat you alive? Your guess is as good as mine and I’ve seen the movie.
Despite not understanding the ending, I loved director Nicolas Winding Refn’s style, feel, tone, colors, direction, look, everything about the appearance of the film. I really enjoyed Refn’s film Drive. I didn’t like his Only God Forgives. I can respect what he does in that, but I didn’t like it as a movie. His style is pretty breathtaking in this and there’s a scene with Fanning on a diving board that is flawless. Terrence Malick now makes movies that are breathtaking to look at it, but lack a story, at least I understand most of the story in Refn’s latest film.
The film looks absolutely stunning on Blu-ray. Refn’s colors are perfect and Fanning looks amazing. The movie is a must own in HD. It sounds perfect as well. The score is top notch and you feel it in your room. The bonus features include commentary and 2 featurettes.
The Neon Demon is a hard sell. I’m not sure who to recommend it to and it sounds like I didn’t like the film. I did. The film stays with you and makes you think. Refn’s coloring, blocking and framing can’t be beat by anyone in the game today. Add in an amazing score with original music by Cliff Martinez and it’s a piece of art. It’s a film you have to see for yourself. The general movie going audience will hate it and not understand it. Some people might think it’s the best picture of the year. I think it’s beautiful and crazy and isn’t that what art is supposed to be?
- Audio Commentary with Director Nicolas Winding Refn and Elle Fanning
- “Behind the Soundtrack of The Neon Demon”
- “About The Neon Demon.”
Cast & Crew:
- Elle Fanning
- Jena Malone
- Keanu Reeves
- Director Nicolas Winding Refn
Recommended If You Like:
- Knight of Cups
- Black Swan
- Nicolas Winding Refn