The Neon Demon
Nicholas Winding Refn’s most recent project is the definition of “not for everyone”. At my screening (the red carpet premiere at Cannes), there were walkouts, gasps of disgust, and a whole lot of laughter. There was also a ten minute standing ovation, delivered by a crowd that would spill out onto the Croisette, tripping on their formalwear and ready to talk shit.
Neon Demon is the film I wanted Only God Forgives to be. I’m biased, of course. I love fashion, I love the cast, I love movies with a teenage female protagonist discovering something about herself. This film doesn’t have the strong arc of Drive, but it has the stylistic approach of Only God Forgives in a setting that I find fascinating. Add to that a sense of uncomfortable humour and indulgent delight that constantly makes you ask, “am I allowed to laugh at that?” pulled from Black Swan, and you’ve got Neon Demon.
This whole film is an indulgent romp through the fashion industry, pulling very real tropes and placing them in surreal version of Los Angeles. It’s a neon nightmare. I woke up the next day with the strange sensation of having a bad dream that involved Keanu Reeves and a cougar.
The cast does an amazing job. Elle Fanning is sugary sweet with unfathomable skin, and Jena Malone shines in a way I’ve never seen her before. Bella Heathcoate has some amazing deadpan comedic timing. The soundtrack moves perfectly with every image, punctuated by an amazing “Waving Goodbye” by Sia that I plan on listening to every day for the rest of the summer. And then Keanu Reeves shows up for a minute and confuses the hell out of everyone in the room with a cameo that (as much as I adore that man) is not truly successful.
Is it a good film? I don’t know. I heard a friend criticize it by calling it empty and vacuous, but so what? Very rarely do I get to sit in a theatre and think, “hey, a movie made for me!”. It’s disgusting, uncomfortable, and so much fun. Go see it! You might hate it but at least you’ll have an informed opinion.