REVIEW: The Neon Demon (2016)

The Neon Demon Poster
Theatrical Release poster – Amazon Studios, et al.

The following is a review of The Neon Demon, a Nicolas Winding Refn film.

I like a lot of Nicolas Winding Refn’s films. I think he’s one of the most talented Danish directors out there. Drive is probably his most well known film, and definitely the film people praise the most. Drive is amazing, and I really like his Pusher-films too. Only God Forgives gets a lot of criticism, and I get where the criticism is coming from, but, ultimately, I thought the good outweighed the bad there. I really didn’t know what to expect from The Neon Demon

The Neon Demon is a bizarre film about beauty, the loss of innocence, narcissism, and the dark side of Hollywood. The film follows Jesse (played by Elle Fanning), an impressionable and innocent young woman, who dreams of becoming a model. After having modeled for a young photographer, Jesse signs with a modeling agency.

The agency is impressed with Jesse’s beauty, and she is soon sent to a test shoot with a photographer (playd by Desmond Harrington), who becomes captivated with her beauty almost instantly. While make-up artist, Ruby (played by Jena Malone), becomes a friend of Jesse’s, other models start to become unhappy with her and her success. Suddenly, Jesse’s beauty becomes a problem for people around her.

Even though it is a very ‘weird’ or bizarre film, I ended up liking a lot of what I was seeing and hearing. Cliff Martinez’s musical score is beautiful to listen to and, at times, almost hypnotizing. And the score complements the visual style of the film. The Neon Demon is a gorgeously shot film.

Not all of the performances are that great, but I thought Jena Malone did a great job as Ruby. Her character does some really bizarre stuff, but her performance was perfectly convincing. Elle Fanning did a fine job as Jesse. Keanu Reeves, who plays this really creepy motel manager, didn’t do anything for me, though, and I wish Christina Hendricks would have been in more scenes.

As I said, I liked a lot of what this film was going for. I had no problem interpreting a lot of the scenes in the film. The first two-thirds of the film really worked for me. I was loving the film. But the final third really – and I mean, really – didn’t work for me. It goes off the rails, but the strange turn should work for some people.

All in all, though, Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon is an interesting film that will be polarizing. Some people will hate it. Some people won’t appreciate the style. The Neon Demon is a bizarrely fascinating experience that, unfortunately, is really hard to recommend to people that don’t usually appreciate Nicolas Winding Refn’s films.

7.2 out of 10

– I’m Jeffrey Rex

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