Written and directed by Nicholas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives), his latest film 'The Neon Demon' examines beauty in the narcissistic context of the fashion industry.
Noticed for her natural beauty and current look, Jesse (Elle Fanning) arrives in LA with an ambition to enter the fashion industry, with promises she will become a star. Other girls quickly become jealous and feel threatened by her. Can her purity and kindred spirit last in this 'dog eat dog' industry, or will it change her with tragic consequences?
'The Neon Demon' opens with a beautiful colour palette, of bright neons and blues, creating and inviting and dazzling world, and symbolic of LA after dark, that lasts for the first half of the movie, reflected in Jesse's psyche- excitement in discovering fame, a new city, new friends...
The latter half takes a drastic turn both in terms of style and metaphor, which was met with split criticism and praise. Whilst horror motifs and vampirism exist throughout, the final act was truly unexpected, shocking and disturbing, reflecting Refn's auteuristic approach and desire to stir up an audience's reaction.
Whilst 'The Neon Demon' can be compared to Aronofsky's 'Black Swan', both of which sees a female lead entangled in an intense world of beauty, perfection and competition, the former's plot is secondary to its themes, characters and metaphors. This lack of plot is somewhat made up for in visual style and audacity.
Without a true plot, the film's real climax is in the final minutes of the film, a final shocker that is quiet, treated in a shockingly somewhat blase way.
Elle Fanning- Jesse
Jena Malone- Ruby
Also stars Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee.
The whole film is well cast and each actor carries a little of what they're known for to the role. Elle Fanning, known for her innocence, plays the innocent one. Keanu Reeves, a bit of a loose ball, pretty much is his characters from his recent films, as grumpy motel manager. And Jena Malone just steals the show for me.
Refn's audacious vision can clearly be seen in the visually beautiful and graphic world of fashion in 'The Neon Demon', paired with a pumping soundtrack by Cliff Martinez, and metaphorically takes the themes of beauty and narcissism to a whole new level.
Whilst artistry can be appreciated, and I 'get' the second half, I just didn't enjoy it but perhaps that's the point?