By midlandsmovies, Nov 3 2016 12:36PM
The Neon Demon (2016) Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
After the arse-numbing carbuncles grown during the slog that was the director’s Only God Forgives (a film I will never forgive) comes Nicolas Winding Refn’s next experimental thriller The Neon Demon. The film follows an innocent young waif called Jesse (played by corpse-like Elle Fanning) who is looking to join the ranks of (exploited) models in the superficial Californian fashion industry.
Slower than a snail in L.A. traffic, Refn is aspiring for the vibe of a Kubrick or Lynch – his shot composition is admittedly great and references those director’s ‘distant’ style – but it comes across much more as art-student than art-house.
Like a copy of Vogue which has 50 pages of adverts to chore through only for the reader/viewer to be thoroughly bored when it finally gets going, the film’s shallow characters drag out the dull fashion world clichés. From the young starlet on the block, bitchy comments, exploitation and jealousy The Neon Demon attempts to do something new with them using Refn’s unique aesthetic style. The style, whilst impressive, is not however enough and simply glosses over the cracks in the film like bad mascara.
As the innocent Jesse is manipulated by those around her – from her make-up “friend” Ruby (Jena Malone) to fashion designer Robert Sarno (Alessandro Nivola) – the film throws in some horror genre tropes that grate against the sombre themes. A vicious motel owner played by Keanu Reeves is straight from a b-movie slasher and in all honesty I’d love to see a film about his background more so than the stereotypes on show here. The impressionable young red-riding hood, the photographer huntsman and the wolf like fashion house owner maybe mythical in status but are forgettable platitudes here.
The last 30 minutes are preposterous and unintelligible bilge with the idea that “the modelling industry will eat you alive and spit you out” being literally represented on screen – and as subtle as the “there’s always a bigger fish” line from The Phantom Menace.
What we’re left with is some gorgeous imagery and although that did have its charms, it was swallowed by a gagging amount of cheesy chestnuts seen a thousand times before. With the addition of some mild (for me) horror The Neon Demon ends up as shock b*llocks (shollocks?). Those who enjoyed the director’s previous outings will definitely find lots to talk about but others may be rubbed the wrong way by both Refn’s pretentious nonsense stretching for high art and his agent provocateur persona daring you to enjoy its seedy pleasures. A twisted and torturous tale for the characters AND the viewer.
Midlands Movies Mike