Inspired by films such as Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, The Neon Demon takes a sadistic look at the fashion industry.
Let me start this review by stating that this is a Nicolas Winding Refn film. If you don’t know who Refn is, then I would advise you to watch his previous films (Bronson, Only God Forgives) before diving full force into The Neon Demon. But personal preference aside, The Neon Demon has the shock value, even more so, than many of Refn’s previous films.
The Neon Demon takes a stab (literally) at the world of fashion, but especially, the topic of, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Elle Fanning, who does a great job as Jesse, a lonely girl, looking for her big break as a model. Jesse’s personality, or lack thereof, set the foundation for Jesse as she changes throughout the film, and continues to be poisoned by beauty and fame. I would advise you to watch the character of Jesse, closely. Her changes, though subtle at first, end up becoming a big part of the film. But as good as Fanning is, it was Jenna Malone that really stuns in this film. Malone’s portrayal of Ruby was mesmerizing. I can’t get her out of my head. Every time Malone enters a scene, she is breathtaking and mischievous. What I admire most of her performance is the constant pushing of the envelope. Malone holds nothing back as her character does some rather “questionable acts”.
As for the story, or the quality of, I actually appreciated what Refn was aiming for. The majority of the story is how Jesse is taken into the world of fashion, and told she is basically, one of a kind. But the story is much more than that. The actresses in the film portrayed the characters with such believability, that you were able realize the psychotic theme that is at the root of the storyline.
There were some elements of the film that just didn’t cut it. For example, the hotel manager, Hank, played by Keanu Reeves. I felt that his character was going to lead up to something big. But after a certain scene, the story fails to mention more about him. The story also becomes a little outrageous, but in order to play with the symbolism of the film, I understand why those scenes were written that way.
The Neon Demon is a stunning film to watch. However, once again, I will emphasize that this is not your normal viewing experience. With the help of an exceptional score by Cliff Martinez, this film really shines. If you love films with symbolism, or films that constantly push the envelope, this film is for you. If you find yourself coming out of a movie, and leaving wanting more, this film is for you. The Neon Demon will screw with your senses, making this for a sadistic viewing, that feels so good.
The Neon Demon
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Elle Fanning, Jenna Malone, Bella Heathcote, and Abbey Lee