Checked out the new experimental art house film by Nicolas Winding Refn (who made Drive and Only God Forgives) The Neon Demon. This film stars Elle Fanning as an innocent teen who moves to LA to become a model where she quickly gets all the big jobs, makes the others models jealous, causes the photographers and fashion designers’ jaws to drop, etc. But saying this movie has that rather generic, been-there-done-that plot is beside the point since this is more of a mood piece… the plot is something that drives events but it isn’t why you sit through two hours of it.
This movie is experimental and weird, full of amazing imagery and an engaging propulsive synth soundtrack. It’s much more interesting in showing weird and beautiful visuals and odd events than it is telling a story.
Elle Fanning does a very good job at portraying a character who seems vacant but may be deeper than she appears… or may be as vapid. Jenna Malone and a dirt-bag Keanu Reeves show up as well. Jenna Malone has a scene that will turn off a great number of people but is really good in the movie and in that scene. Same can be said for dirt-bag Keanu as a motel manager… rarely do you see it, but he’s kind of a hulking brute. It’s a great, small, and gross performance.
I’m not sure if this movie is drama or horror or suspense or comedy or what. I wasn’t much scared and I laughed where maybe I shouldn’t…. or maybe it was meant to be funny. I’m not sure. But, I suspect, the movie doesn’t care if I get it or not. It’s not here to please me.
And that is a bit of a problem because I spent the whole movie trying to figure out of it was brilliant or pretensions garbage. I kind of came down on pretensions in the third act where they kind of state and overstate the film’s thesis and it’s about as on-the-nose and predictable as you can get. And then it goes ridiculous and even more on-the-nose about the back-stabbing in the model business. Which was a point where I laughed but I think I was supposed to go, “hmmmmmm.”
Or maybe I was supposed to laugh.
So the movie is definitely not for everyone. See only if you like your average every day David Lynch film… weird, twisty, moody experimental films which might be saying something or maybe the director is just messing with you. But if you have patience and are willing to risk maybe it not working for you, it’s certainly an interesting experience.