The Neon Demon Movie Review
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Very rarely am I left speechless after seeing a movie, although such is the case for The Neon Demon. I will start with the fact that I have been an Elle Fanning fan (she plays Jesse) for a very long time. There are big actors that, no matter the movie, a fan will eagerly watch; Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, Denzel Washington, Sean Penn… they all have the star power that draws people to the film they’re in and that’s how it is for me with Elle.
I’ve loved almost every single movie she has been in (while you may not be familiar with her outside of Maleficent (2014), she has quite the resume with over 30 movies under her belt at the ripe old age of 18) and eagerly await the next. I almost always love the projects she takes on as each one is so different from the last. So many actors stay with a shtick but not Elle, with multiple movies coming out every year, she has vastly different characters she brings to life. That’s how an actress grows and improves, but alas, The Neon Demon did not leave much room for growth in my opinion.
Jesse has the killer combination of youth and beauty, and is in pursuit of a high fashion career in Los Angeles. Immediately she is adored by designers and loathed by fellow models Gigi and Sarah (played respectively by Bella Heathcoat and real supermodel Abbey Lee). Jena Malone (The Hunger Games franchise) plays the makeup artist/ protector, Ruby. This fictional fashion world contains quite a few interesting characters. We’ve seen it before; a gorgeous newcomer from a small town takes the spot light from aging starlets. The difference with The Neon Demon is the fact that Nicolas Winding Refn (Valhalla Rising (2009), Drive (2011), Only God Forgives (2013)) is directing it. He knows this is an age old tale that’s been told and sold a million different ways. The characters actually acknowledge and mention the fact of how this is nothing new, which was something I enjoyed (probably the one thing I enjoyed in all honesty).
The Neon Demon is such an odd movie and it seemed to stretch on forever. Certain scenes made me so uncomfortable, I physically squirmed. I’m fine with characters having sex and I’ve seen gruesome murders Quentin Tarantino style but good lord. Let’s just say that this is not a movie you will leave feeling happy and fulfilled unless you like cannibalism, necrophilia, and drawn out scenes with unexplained blood drinking.
In a lot of ways this felt like an experimental film that a university student would do, with a bigger budget. It was quite simply, awful. Not even solely because of the previously listed, which I could get past (kind of), it’s the storyline too. If it was interesting and the dialogue kept me awake, perhaps it would have been more bearable. Word to the wise, the extra creepy stuff isn’t until the last half hour before the movie ends. You’ve been warned.
While The Neon Demon is supposed to be artsy and let us look in to the competitive world of high fashion modeling in a sort of hyperbolic way, all it did for me was put me in an exhaustive state, sleepiness waving over me and eventually it made me want to puke. This movie may be for some people but I truly don’t think it’s for most people. I suppose even Elle has to have a dud in her portfolio.