Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Country: USA / France / Denmark
Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn is capable of the best and the worst. His latest film “The Neon Demon”, which he also co-wrote, confirms his recent lack of inspiration and an increasing necessity of shocking us through stories with no substance. The strategy is somehow related to that one used in his nauseating previous work, “Only God Forgives”, his second association with Ryan Gosling after the well-accepted “Drive”.
As expected, the story is soaked in blood and wrapped in darkness and mystery, however, it fails roundly to bring something original, interesting, or even entertaining to our contemporary cinematic universe.
The film is as vulgar as the world of fashion it depicts, and follows Jesse (Elle Fanning), an ambitious and attractive 16-year-old orphan who signs a contract with an established modeling agency from L.A. with the condition to tell everyone she’s 19. She befriends Ruby (Jena Malone), a make-up artist who seems worried about her well-being, offering prompt help for anything she might need.
Not only Jesse’s naivety is misleading, but also everything else around her. From photographers to models, everyone seems to have something to grasp and take advantage of, or something to envy in regard to the young and inexperienced Jesse, a sad and lonely rising star in a field of delusions. The only character with a minimum of decency is Dean (Karl Glusman), a young man who nurtures some true feelings for Jesse, but is quickly put aside due to his reluctance to play dishonest games.
In parallel to Jesse’s career account, there’s an uninteresting mystery story regarding the cheap motel where Jesse is installed.
With the music and visuals playing a vital role, Mr. Refn sets up a depressingly macabre scenario where lust and blood intertwine in a surreal way.
His characters are clearly sick in the mind, the tones are morbid, and the posture is tendentiously abhorrent, despite the little moments of curiosity it might arise.
The contrived “The Neon Demon” showcases beautiful women whose intellectual emptiness makes them repellent.
Mr. Refn gets lost in pretentious trivialities and unintelligent strategies that frustrate more than captivate.