I had a hard time seeing this movie. I had intended to go to one showing, only to arrive at the theater and discover the showtime had been canceled. So, I found the nearest theater screening it, and I went to that one instead. When you’ve seen Drive, you do these sorts of things for a Nicolas Winding Refn film.
Was the effort worth it? Yes and no.
The Neon Demon centers around Jesse (Elle Fanning of Maleficent). She wants to be a model, and everyone seems to think she’s got it. The whole package. Next big thing. And here’s what’s inherently wrong with that: she doesn’t.
Elle Fanning, as beautiful and talented as she may be, is not the third coming of runway goddesses. You see her and you think she’s an actress playing a model, not an actress being one. She sticks out. Beauty can be objective, but superlatives are not. She looks less like a catwalker than a model for a Target ad, and yet she’s treated like something different. I could not get over it.
As for the rest of the film, Winding Refn has reached the peak of his self-indulgence. There is necrophilia and cannibalism (to say more would spoil it), and his themes are too plentiful and buried too deep to understand them all. Is a mountain lion random, or… what?
Don’t get me wrong; there are some fantastically surreal sequences in this film, all enhanced by another great score by Cliff Martinez. There just aren’t enough, and no amount of directorial showboating can make up for that. A third act twist redeems the film, but only because of its boldness.
So much of this film, as much as I hate to admit it, does not have a true purpose. When a scene lingers, it’s usually to make you wait for something carnal. It’s like it’s testing how much you can handle.
Nicolas Winding Refn is a visionary, without question, and yet I don’t always like what he sees. I can respect his work, though, like I can respect a showing of modern art. If you don’t love this film, you don’t dislike it–you just “don’t get it.”
One thing’s for sure: few filmmakers are as brazen right now as Nicolas Winding Refn.
The Neon Demon is in theaters now.