Review: “The Neon Demon” Is Original and Beautiful; But That May Not Be Enough



Title: The Neon Demon
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Gorgeous, Creative, Original, Great Acting


Weak Story

Posted September 9, 2016 by

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Nicolas Winding Refn consistently gives us films that are beautiful to look at, slower in pace, and go so far against the conventional that you can’t help but respect them. This does not always mean that you will love everything about the film, and that is the case with “The Neon Demon”. What this movie has going for it is an impressive and breakout performance from Elle Fanning. Her interpretation of a young model, Jesse, that has just moved to California and is already dealing with the ugliness of jealousy of the people around her in the modeling world is intoxicating. While I got the sense that Jesse could take care of herself, I couldn’t help worrying about everyone else doing everything they could to take her down. This feeling doesn’t go away throughout the film which created this tension that placed this movie into the psychological horror genre; where it rightfully belongs. 

Refn’s work, when it’s all said and done, will be considered cult classics

The one mistake I made while watching this movie was looking for a hidden meaning; trying to understand what it all meant. I think a better way to go about viewing this film would be to just enjoy the ride, take in the gorgeous shots Refn is constantly giving you, and really focus on the acting. While Refn always manages to put beautiful people in his movies, he’s also able to get a different performance out of them that we haven’t seen before. It worked for Ryan Gosling in both “Drive” and “Only God Forgives” and it definitely works here for Elle Fanning. Now the ultimate move would be to put Gosling and Fanning in the same movie and see what happens. Much like filmmaking renegades that came before him like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, Refn isn’t content to just give us the same Hollywood produced story we have gotten time-and-time again. He’s creating daring stories that push the envelope and really force the audience out of its comfort zone to hopefully see things from a different point of view and possibly enjoy a style of movie they didn’t think they could. In that he succeeds. In always creating the perfect product, he falls short with this one unfortunately.

While the movie as a whole is beautiful to look at and there are moments you won’t easily forget (Jesse listening through her hotel wall as the woman next door gets assaulted), the story feels like it’s missing something. Not enough to ruin the movie, but enough that it made me leave with the feeling that I got cheated out of a great story somewhere along the way. Could have been the lackluster ending (but even that is much better than I originally thought it was) or the fact that nothing really happens in the grand scheme of things (less happened than I gave it credit for while watching it). Now that I think of it, it’s just that nothing really happened. The story reached its peak early and then just kind of stayed there; with the way Refn is able to create subtle tension I just kept hoping it would keep climbing until a climactic ending but that wasn’t the case.

In the end, “Neon Demon” is just good enough to be a decent movie, but not one you would run out and recommend other people watch. I’m happy I did, but not sure I would go through it again. I hope years down the road I look back and it’s a better film than I remembered. I think Refn’s work, when it’s all said and done, will be considered cult classics and deservedly so.





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