The Neon Demon


Huh? I mean seriously: huh?! I get the main ideas, but this latest from writer/director Refn (Drive) got lost somewhere between an homage to David Lynch and a love of John Carpenter without even the semi-continuity of idea that Under the Skin managed. It ended up as pretentious as it is obtuse.

If there is a reason to see this movie, it is Elle Fanning (Trumbo). She was great in her role, disturbingly able to flip between innocence and predator easily. Her transformation and layers showcase her abilities nicely. But the story lost me utterly with one decision: not to help someone that could have been helped with no cost. That was a script choice, not the actor’s. But at that point the entire story became forced and stupid. And I say that forgetting the psychedelic scenes that preceded and followed that shift.

Fanning is surrounded by a few characters that each want something for or from her. While Karl Glusman (Love) is appropriately naive, he is also somewhat forgettable. It is really the triumvirate of career women that fall into her orbit that are important.

Jena Malone (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2),  Bella Heathcote (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), and Abby Lee (Gods of Egypt) are adult analogs of the High School queens. They rule a fictitious kingdom in their own minds. Their desperate nature feels relatively real, but the outcomes of it all are over the top and, ultimately, absurd. I’d like to believe that Refn was trying to be symbolic, but I honestly couldn’t say since so much else didn’t make any real sense.

At the periphery are three other good performances. Christina Hendricks (Lost River), Desmond Harrington (Limitless),  and Keanu Reeves (John Wick). Each brings in a memorable character into Fanning’s life and sells them well with few lines. They each provide some grounding for the crazy world created around them.

Frankly, I’d skip this one unless you have to have see someone in it or feel you need to see all of Refn’s work. It is a fractured, incomplete, ill-conceived mess. There was potential, but the story just got away from him and lost focus and point. Or, perhaps, it was just as simple as I think it may have been but the story was overblown for the point. Either way, it is a long haul to get where he leaves you.

The Neon Demon

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