Nicholas Winding Refn may have some of the most stylistic movies I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. The use of colour, camera shots, subtle camera movements, and contrast screams style to me. After seeing the trailer for The Neon Demon, I knew that this film would be no different.
The Neon Demon is about an aspiring young model Jesse(Elle Fanning) who moves to Los Angeles, where her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty obssessed women who will take any means necessary to get what Jesse has.
Nicholas Winding Refn is the brilliant director of this film. His filmography also includes many other fantastic films such as Bronson(2008) and Drive(2011). I’ve been told I need to see Valhalla Rising(2009). However, I will say this: his last film Only God Forgives(2013) was not particularly enjoyable for me. But I still admire Refn’s style (From this point forward I’m going to abbreviate Nichola’s Winding Refn’s name as NWR, just to save time). He also wrote all of these films, except for Drive which was based on book by James Sallis and the screenplay was adapted by Hossein Amini.
NWR’s unique style is expertly displayed in The Neon Demon. I haven’t seen anything quite like it; it’s a treat for the eyes to look at… even if you don’t exactly understand whats going on in the story. The colours of his films are always intuitive while jarring. It is interesting to note that his films look the way they do because NWR is colour-blind and the only way he can really see his films is to use contrasting colors. So his films are always unique in appearance so that he himself can see what he is doing. I imagine his films as pieces of moving art. His way of filming things is beautiful, and I was blown away by the cinematography in this film. There were parts of the film I wanted to pause at just to admire what NWR was showing. The directing of this film was very well done, no complaints about that.
The acting in this movie was masterful. Elle Fanning played the main character Jesse and I thought she did a really good job. She’s stellar in many of the films I’ve seen too, like Babel(2006), Reservation Road(2007), The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button(2008), and Super 8(2011). I think that this was a good fit for her and much different than anything else I’ve seen her in. In other films she plays a child like character: always innocent, always a little naive. But in The Neon Demon she plays a 16 year old who lies about her age and say she’s 19 so no one asks questions, and yet she’s still young in this film, and still innocent, but she’s definitely seems a lot more mature. Also Jena Malone is in this movie, playing Ruby. I’ve always been a big fan of her work, minus Donnie Darko(2001) (that I thought was a really pretentious film). She was also in Contact(1997), Stepmom(1998), Into The Wild(2007), Sucker Punch(2011) – which wasn’t very good-The Hunger Games: Catching Fire/MockingJay Part 1 and 2(2013-2015), Inherent Vice(2014). I think she’s brilliant and doesn’t get enough attention. Usually if she’s in a movie and I’m interested in the plot, I will generally watch it.
My only real complaint about this film was the story. I don’t know for sure if I got it or not, but I enjoyed the movie nonetheless. I also thought there were a few weird script issues, but the scenery made up for it.
I would also find it hard to describe the genre of this film; according to IMDb, it’s a horror/thriller. I could see the thriller elements, not so much the horror aside from the blood/gore that was in the film. I definitely would classify it as a thriller. I couldn’t predict how this film was going to end…and then what happened…happened. My only response was “oh jesus” and then the credits roll. There wasn’t enough time to process what was going on, reminiscent of the time stilling moments before a car crashes into yours. I won’t ruin it, but it was interesting.
Lastly, the soundtrack to The Neon Demon was incredible, as I knew it would be. Clint Martinez was the composer of the film, and after seeing what he did with the Drive(2011) soundtrack, I knew for sure that my ears were in for a treat. His way of accenting a movie, and adding his own certain something special, makes the films he works on even better. I’m always intrigued to hear what he comes up with. Other than working on both NWR films, Drive and The Neon Demon, he’s also worked on Traffic(2000), The Lincoln Lawyer(2011), Contagion(2011), Only God Forgives(2013), Far Cry 4-Video Game(2014), and War Dogs(2016). He will also be composing the soundtrack for the untitled Wolverine sequel, due to be released in 2016.
Despite the issues I had with this movie regarding the story, script and general “what-the-hell-is-happening”, I still enjoyed the ride and how this film was made.
I give The Neon Demon a 4/5
Its definitely not for everyone, but if you enjoy odd/weird films with really breathtaking directing and unique colours, I would recommend checking this out. But if you can’t handle a lot of blood, this movie isn’t for you.
Until next time!
**I did end up winning an advance screening pass to Snowden which I will be attending September 12th, so stay tuned for that!**
**Hopefully ill have a Deepwater Horizon and Sully advanced screening review as well**