Reviewed on 06-11-2020
As a big time fan of the supremely talented Elle Fanning, I was dying to see The Neon Demon, especially given director Nicolas Winding Refn's previous work on the hyper-stylized Drive (2011).
So on Friday June 24th 2016, I stopped whatever I was doing at that time, and bolted to a nearby cinema to catch the very first matinee showing on opening day. I was all alone in theater, save for two other people, an elderly couple who, twenty minutes into the movie, stomped down the stadium stairs and sprinted for the exit door, babbling on in a bitter rage about how this was the worst movie they had ever seen and etc.
Yeah, The Neon Demon is that kind of movie.
It’s bold, brash, controversial, polarizing, horrific, and just outright bizarre. It’s also fucking brilliant. A cinematic kaleidoscope of stylized Hollywood glamour via the high-stakes world of high-end fashion modeling and what it takes to get to, and more importantly to stay on, the top in that world of staged artifice.
It’s also a biting satire on the hyper-materialized world of elite celebrity culture, told through the roving lens of Refn, his cinematographer Natasha Braier, and his composer Cliff Martinez, as they create their hypnotic dreamscape, sucking us in with such addictive intensity, we never want to leave, no matter how strange it all gets.
But for all of this to work, it requires the right lead, and as he did with Ryan Gosling in Drive, Refn hits it out of the park with Elle Fanning.
I previously raved about Elle in these pages talking about her performance in Super 8. Even though she gave such a mature performance and looked like a high school senior, she was thirteen at the time (12 during filming). Here she actually is about that high school senior age (she was 18 when the movie opened, and 17 during principle photography). And just like in Super 8, she gives a performance beyond her years. As I said back during that review, she is the truth.
Elle Fanning lights up the screen, commanding our undivided attention with a beguiling girl next door charm that encases a smoldering sexual charisma that rockets her straight to the top of the fashion world, bringing along with it a third act full of dark baggage that neither she nor us in the audience had bargained for.
Stylized direction. Cool music and eye-candy cinematography.
And a knockout performance from the iconic Elle Fanning.
But is The Neon Demon for you?
Let me put it to you this way. Do you like David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001)? Do you like Russ Myer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)?
If the answer to one of those is yes, then by all means check out The Neon Demon. If the answer is no to both then just stop reading now and do not ever see this movie. Ever.
If the answer is yes to both, than good God man, what are you waiting for? See The Neon Demon and see it now because you will absolutely love it.
Bottom line: **** (out of four)
A hyper-stylized masterwork anchored by the captivating Elle Fanning. One of the best films of the 2010s.