In The Neon Demon, Nicolas Winding Refn is presenting audiences with a feature that will prove to be divisive. There will be some who love its strange awkwardness, but the majority of others will either be completely bored with it or thoroughly disturbed. While I wasn’t disturbed by what I saw, I did find myself to be bored with a movie that had the elements to be something.
After a recent move to Los Angeles, the sixteen year-old Jesse (Elle Fanning) has her eyes on becoming a supermodel. She starts as an innocent hopeful dreaming of being a star, but after she becomes friends with a few people in the glamour business, Jesse gets a new view on life. With this comes positives and negatives as the young lady becomes a part of a scene that’s hard to recreate anywhere else in the world.
The Neon Demon is something that I’ll only watch once in my life. I say this because all of the mystery, suspense and intrigue vanish after a while. For the most part, it plays out like a drama that certainly allows for the mind to wander as you’re analyzing it and attempting to figure out what’s going on. For reviewing purposes, that’s fine, but for entertainment purposes? That’s not the case.
My first problem comes from realizing that there actually isn’t much happening. Once that became apparent, I stopped searching and decided that it was best just to watch what was being given to me by Refn. I’d say this was about at the halfway point of the movie, and from then on, it became a bit stodgy. Sure, it still manages to look pretty, but there isn’t much left to hang onto once you accept that these scenes are simply being extended for no reason.
There is a story with a sensible message seen throughout its duration, but it’s not strong and the scenes lingering on illustrate that fact even further. Of course, this gives The Neon Demon an appearance of a thin work of art with nothing to really offer outside of its obvious visual beauty. I guess in that sense, it’s similar to the kind of shallow supermodels that we see in the movie itself.
I do like the themes, the looks and the sounds of The Neon Demon, but the execution really prevents it from being a film of substantial quality. Shortening the scenes and doing a better job of building toward the final act and its ending could have made this more than just a conversation piece. Those changes could have made this into a good movie.
By the time we get to the final act, this becomes something drastically different from what it was before. I don’t have an issue with a shift like this, but it’s weird and turns the movie into something else. For a few, this will be enough to make them like the movie, but for most others, it will very likely turn them off to it all together.
I highly doubt too many in the general public will actually take the time to see this at any point anyway. For the audience members who do decide to look into the eyes of The Neon Demon, they will come out of it regretting even giving it a chance. I say this with full confidence, because you get a feel for what audiences are really into after a while.
While it isn’t good, The Neon Demon is at least an improvement over Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives. That’s not saying a bunch since that was an utter disappointment. This one at least has some positives even though it comes with some massive problems that don’t allow for anything to shine as much as it should.
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Film Length: 117 minutes
Release Date: June 24, 2016
Distributor: Broad Green Pictures
- Score - 4/104/10