Every once in a while there comes a film that I truly get excited for. I mean, EXCITED. In 2015, that movie was It Follows. It did not disappoint at all. This year is no different. There has been a film on my radar for quite some time. Due explicitly to the fact of who was directing it. Certain directors garner high expectations based off of their previous endeavors. Nicolas Winding Refn is that director. He had success directing Tom Hardy in Bronson. Had major success directing Ryan Gosling in Drive. So now it’s time to see what else is up Refn’s sleeve.
This time around, he takes us into the ruthlessly competitive world of designer fashion. Where beautiful models will stop at nothing to be the best. A world where only the strong survive. A world where beauty isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.
The story follows 16–year old Jesse (Elle Fanning), as she moves to California with the hopes of becoming a fashion model. Having no family by her side, she is truly a lone sheep in a world of wolves. Fresh meat as they say. Yet it doesn’t take Jesse too long to make an impact and swiftly she becomes a hot commodity, much to the chagrin of her fellow models. Makeup stylist, Ruby (Jena Malone) soon befriends her. She sees the innocence and naivety in her and wants to look out for her, give her someone to look up to and rely on. But Jesse soon begins to realize that she doesn’t know who she can trust in her rise to the top.
The Neon Demon is utter artistic eye candy. This film is beautiful, sleek, provocative and exudes sex. In my humble opinion, it’s a true piece of cinema art. The sequences are shot so stylishly. Some scenes are filmed as to not know whether its dream or reality, others are canvased to put you into an almost hypnotic trance. Beautiful and bizarre, just as they are horrific. The use of colors as tone are so vibrantly well done, reminded me at times of The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013). On the opposite end, other shots were dimly-lit and dark, almost void of color creating tense moments.
Cliff Martinez’ mesmerizing score was spot on, very brooding. There were times when the music and scenery meshed so well. The noises and sound effects in the music really solidified the actor’s motions. It felt as though the actors were part of the music. Better yet, the score itself felt like it’s own character.
Martinez, who wrote the scores for Refn’s previous films, Drive and Only God Forgives (2013), really took it to the next level with this one. A truly superb composition that won Martinez ‘Best Composer’ at Cannes this year and I believe it is also worthy of an Oscar nod.
The 1st two acts of The Neon Demon are a slow burn. Following the naïve 16 year old’s ascent in the modeling world, it’s a true character portrayal. Elle Fanning did an amazing job exuding innocence and youth, her best performance to date. But soon we start to see Malone’s character Ruby shine. I really believe Jena Malone stole the show with her performance. Then everything is turned up on its head. The third act really hits a home run. I mean, WAY out of the park. Unabashedly, it rises to an unforeseen crescendo that is so beautifully artistic, you almost forget that what you have just witnessed was horrific….
This film had such polarizing reviews coming out of Cannes this year. I believe this will also polarize regular viewers as well. Some people will not like this movie, for this reason or that. I am however, in love with this film. I truly cannot wait to see this Tour de Force again! It was provocative, sensual and hypnotically horrific.
The Neon Demon was released on limited screens June 24th 2016.
If you haven’t had the chance, check out the Red Band trailer below:
As Always, thanks for reading and STAY SCARED!