RELEASED 2016 RUNTIME 117 MIN LANGUAGE ENGLISH DIRECTION NICHOLAS WINDING REFN DIRECTION MARY LAWS, NICOLAS WINDING REFN, POLLY STENHAM STARRING ELLE FANNING, KARL GLUSMAN, JENA MALONE, BELLA HEATHCOTE, ABBEY LEE, CHRISTINA HENDRICKS, KEANU REEVES MUSIC CLIFF MARTINEZ
The Neon Demon is the new movie by Nicolas Winding Refn and stars Elle Fanning as Jesse a young girl whose parents died a while ago and who now moved to Los Angeles in order to start a career in the fashion industry as the next big talent.
TONE & ESTHETICS
I haven’t watched Only God Forgives at the time of writing this review, so I can’t compare it. From what I have heard though Only God Forgives is a very in-accessible film and very much art-house cinema.
While I wouldn’t exactly call Drive and, now, The Neon Demon art house cinema, I wouldn’t argue against it, if someone did. There is an artsy edge to all of Winding Refn’s movies and so is The Neon Demon. However, it is very accessible as long as you pay attention. I even think it’s more accessible than Drive. What we have here is a dark thriller with some horror elements.
It starts out with a very beautifully shot intro and sets the esthetic tone from get go. The cinematography is stunning and the sense of colors and shot composition is extremely well crafted. Nicholas Winding Refn has an eye for the picture frame and knows how to drag attention to the screen. Accompanied by a great electronic music score the film just looks and feels stunning.
The story is very straight forward and reminds of Black Swan. It is kind of a negative point, if you have watched it. So, I kind of saw where the story was going. But then during the final act the movie deviates and goes all out crazy. Man, the last 10 minutes are insane! If you have a weak stomach, make sure you don’t eat anything before you watch the movie. The incredible thing is, what you see on screen is not graphic whatsoever. There is no gore or anything. It’s just the incredible acting of Bella Heathcote who plays a supporting role that make you feel certain very unpleasant emotions. I never have been that close to puking inside a movie theater. But that’s a great testament to the director, if he can evoke such strong emotions inside you by moving images. I found that experience quite great to be honest.
Speaking of acting. The performances are fantastic throughout the entire cast even though everyone plays their role very low key. It’s the subtlety that makes it so good. Long takes with just enough words and emotions complement the cold feel of the film. Elle Fanning and Jena Malone stand out as our two main characters. Both are stellar. While Elle Fanning plays her act very innocently and vulnerably Jenna Malone feels very seductive and dominant in her role.
Keanu Reeves is also in this movie, surprise! And I don’t think I have ever seen him playing a jerk before. I like it!
Another shout out to Abbey Lee performs a character walking a fine line between being a jerk and an innocent woman.
Not really an issue, but as said before, the movie is very similar to Black Swan, only for the fashion industry, and follows similar beats – at least until the 3rd act. Also, I think it is a little too on the nose, which is weird to say since Refn is known for deep themes and not exposing everything at first glance. Maybe he listened to the criticism about Only God Forgives, I don’t know. Can’t tell, I yet have to watch it. But it’s possible giving the harsh reviews.
Another thing is that I feel like the movie comes about 10 years too late. By now we as a society have the idea of how shallow and insane the fashion industry is. At least I haven’t learned anything new while watching the film. But it portrays it in a very unapologetic and uncensored way. As I said, the end is freakin’ crazy!
If you like beautifully shot movies with a lot of esthetic value this movie is absolutely for you. Also, when you are fashion person, this is a must see. It’s probably the darkest and coldest portrayal of the fashion industry in movie form yet. It has great performances, great suspense and a crazy plot – everything a solid thriller needs, even when it’s a little too much on the nose sometime to make it really great.