Title: The Neon Demon
MPAA: Rated R for disturbing violent content, bloody images, graphic nudity, a scene of aberrant sexuality, and language
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Keanu Reeves
Synopsis: When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.
Review: The Neon Demon is directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, whose last two films were Drive and Only God Forgives. Drive is one of my all time favorite movies, and was a critically acclaimed success. Only God Forgives, on the other hand, split critics in half. Many regarded it as a huge disappointment and one of the worst movies of the year. Others labeled it as one of the best films of the years and a masterpiece. I’m kind of in the middle. I definitely didn’t think it was a bad film, but it did have its flaws and was too artsy and metaphoric for my taste. I like to think of this film as a combination of Refn’s previous two films. The Neon Demon has a more straight-forward story, and a lot more dialogue kind of like Drive. It also takes place in LA just like Drive did. However, it still uses visual metaphors and was a lot more formalistic just like Only God Forgives was. There are definitely some scenes that will confuse people, or maybe even turn people off, but that is just Refn’s style. His movies offer a lot of violence, and if you accept it, then it should not bother you…So, how did The Neon Demon shape up?
The Neon Demon is one of the best movies I have seen all year. This film is once again shot pristinely, and is incredibly original. Say what you want about Refn’s style, but you can’t deny that his films are beautiful and have incredible cinematography. This film could have had a horrible story, with one-dimensional characters, but I still would have enjoyed it just because of how well filmed it was. However, this film has an intriguing story, with some fascinating multi-dimensional characters, that are complex and unpredictable. This whole film is unpredictable, and is best not knowing anything before watching it. I will try my best to not spoil anything or even give the smallest plot details. The synopsis at the beginning of my review is all you need to know.
After watching this film, it’s important to let it sink in. When it’s over, you might feel anger, confusion, or even disgust. I kinda felt that way when the credits started rolling, but driving home, I thought more and more about it, and I realized that it was brilliant. The ending to this movie is one of the craziest, most memorable endings I have ever seen in a movie. I will never forget it, and that’s what you really want in a movie ending. Not just some predictable, cliché-type movie ending that I will forget an hour later. This film is most certainly not for everyone, and probably won’t reach a mainstream audience. Which leads me to my flaws..
With all the great things I have said about this film, there are some slight problems I had with it. For one, there are some scenes that were disturbing, that may have stretched too long. I understand why they were there, but they certainly did not need to be that long in length, and were very hard to look at. There were also some problems with the story. Some scenes seemed out-of-place, and did not make any sense. Maybe after another viewing I would understand, but coming out of a film confused is never a good thing. Those were really the only problems I had with it, and I think what was so memorable about the movie overshadowed the negatives.
It is great to have a film like this in today’s society. A lot of movies now that Hollywood gives us are just so bland and predictable. They allow you to just turn off your brain and enjoy. At times that might be ok, but The Neon Demon really requires you to think and observe everything in the frame. You can tell Refn put every bit of detail into his shots. The set designs were all fantastic. The performances were all great, especially from Elle Fanning and Jena Malone. There is a lot to ponder about and analyze in your head. The Neon Demon offers some fantastic, original scenes that will stick in your mind. I believe this film will be talked about for years to come, and who knows, maybe it will be considered a masterpiece in 20 years. All I can say is, it’s one of the best movies I have seen all year. If you respect well-crafted cinema, and love to see great, original storytelling with expert cinematography, then you should check this out. My grade for this film is: