Monday, June 27, 2016
THE NEON DEMON Is The Most Basic Nonsense I've Seen In A While
In Nicolas Winding Refn's new film, THE NEON DEMON, high-fashion models are skinny, insecure, and friendless. In other words, they're the exact stereotype of most models portrayed on film since the beginning of time--boring and one-dimensional as f**k. And for the first hour of the film, it looks like this is going to be Refn's entire thesis. But then it gets so much worse; it turns into a bloody disaster.
We seem to be living in a cinematic age in which it's perfectly acceptable for filmmakers to present movies that are beautiful to look at but utterly nonsensical. And maybe that's what Refn is getting at here, but I never thought the same guy who gave us Drive would turn around and give us this trash. But, here we are.
Elle Fanning plays Jesse, a 16-year-old aspiring model from Nowheretown U.S.A., who've just landed in the Big City (exact locations unspecified, of course) with big dreams. She's very, very green, with no modeling experience. Yet she lands a meeting with a big time agent (Christina Hendricks), who tells her she's the next It girl, but she has to be 19 years old not 16. And she starts ditching her one friend (who's really more friends with her than she is with him) in favor of pretentious fashion photographers, and soulless models most interested in her inevitable demise.
If this already sounds like an after school special, it basically is--down to Fanning's clunky performance that fails to be convincing. But then, Refn tries to flip the narrative on its head by throwing in blood--lots of blood--corpse sex, and (to solidify his desperation for shock value) cannibalism. It's a nightmare, in the very worst way.
Which is a shame because, again, THE NEON DEMON, is gorgeous to look at. The women are aesthetically beautifully--though all a little out of their minds--and the photography (complete with the avant garde fashion shoots and glitzy club scenes) is stunning. But the story is a hot mess. None of the main characters are interesting, at all. However, Hendricks and Keanu Reeves (who plays Jesse's slumlord) are intriguing to watch in their brief scenes--albeit completely wasted in the film. In fact, I want to see them do the spin-off film. We actually don't even have to call it a spin-off, because we can pretend this one never happened.
Rating: D (** out of *****)