The Neon Demon: B
Is it Earth-shattering? No. It’s pretty fucking good though.
It’ll push all your buttons if you like Mean Girls, Dario Argento, and Mulholland Drive. It’s like all of those put together, and unlike Blood Orgy of the She-Devils, this film actually has a Blood Orgy of the She-Devils.
The Nicolas Winding Refn aesthetic is there, so let’s talk about it because that’s probably why you are watching this movie. You don’t even know what the movie is about, do you? First of all, yes, there’s fucking NEON all over the place and there are really creepy synthcore sounds. Every shot is perfect, just like in his other films, so there’s that. If you like the man’s work, you will not be disappointed.
What is the movie about? Not much: Jesse is this doe-eyed girl who moves to California to become a model. That’s kind of it. It is a mostly unoriginal story of show business “consuming” the innocent. Everyone is really mean and if you’ve ever seen Valley of the Dolls, you’ll probably feel like you are noticing things in the movie that others are not, so good for you. Keanu Reeves is in it and he pretty casually advertises he’s a sex trafficker.
Jesse quickly becomes the “it” girl in town; everyone wants to photograph her or bang her or break into her motel room late at night to rape her because her chaste mojo makes her an irresistible gem in a swamp of artificial douche-bags. Her coworkers, are cruel 21-year-old minxes, fucking ancient crypt-keepers by industry standards, and they absolutely hate her and the way she lands gigs by just being her awestruck adorable self. You can tell early on that their jealousy is murderous. Stop trying to make staying alive happen, Jesse. It’s not going to happen!
Supposedly, instead of yelling “Action!” before scenes, Refn would yell “Violence, motherfuckers!” and then the actors would, you know, do violence. The movie is mostly a centrifuge of nightmarish perfume ads and people hatefully glaring at each other as the “plot” slogs along. There is some really cathartic gore at the end (a “blood orgy”, if you will) too, so hang in there, gorehounds.
People like to rip this movie a new asshole with the argument that it looks killer but lacks substance. Maybe the plot of Neon Demon is too simple for you because you are a fucking genius, so I’m sorry Christopher Nolan didn’t write this movie. If you wind up watching Neon Demon, you’ll just have to suffer with that huge brain of yours.
Look, I thought Only God Forgives was pretty awful (The pacing was like watching oatmeal ooze down a window and I just couldn’t give less fucks about the characters; what are they like kung-fu mobsters who are sad all the time? Get a fucking life.) but every shot was technically flawless and the boring nonsense looked incredible. It’s sort of the same here, but the characters aren’t just static cliches; they actually change and are interesting.