Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Duration: 113 minutes
The Neon Demon (DVD) – Movie Review
These days people are often complaining as they keep having to work longer for a fair pension. Nonetheless, in the modeling world, the complaints may lie quite differently. It’s always fighting to be the best and to stay in the job, as the new, younger ones, might well pull you out of the game before you’re ready to leave. It all sounds great when you’re sixteen, this world of fame and fortune, but behind the mask, there is a lot of jealousy and hate to overcome.
Jesse (Elle Fanning) only just moved from a small town in Georgia to the big city of Los Angeles. She’s only sixteen, but wants to follow her dream of becoming a model. She soon finds an agency that is interested in her, be it only if she tells everyone she’s nineteen instead of sixteen, and thus her career starts off rather fast. At the same time, she still lives in a motel room with dodgy characters hanging around, not the safest environment for a sixteen year old. Luckily, she met Dean (Karl Glusman) when she first arrived in LA, a guy who is very kind to her, but whom she keeps at a distance nonetheless.
For her first assignment she has to do a photoshoot, where she immediately stuns the photographer Jack (Desmond Harrington), which wasn’t lost on the other models. Makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) is the only one who offers a helping hand, as everything is still very new for Jesse, and they become friends. Other models Sarah (Abbey Lee) and Gigi (Bella Heathcote) start to see Jesse as a threat for their career, but since Jesse made friends with Ruby, who is also their friend, they tolerate her too.
Jesse’s second assignment takes her to a casting call for the famous designer Robert Sarno (Allessandro Nivola). Sarah is there too, but while Sarah and the other models have way more experience than Jesse, Sarno is immediately captivated by her beauty and youth. She’s going to be the star of the show, and Sarah can’t help but feel envious. Later in the bathroom, Sarah has a mental breakdown when Jesse comes in, and when Jesse cuts herself on a piece of broken mirror, Sarah starts sucking the wound, with a ghastly look in her eyes. Jesse pulls back in horror, but the truth is, she’s actually not been doing so well herself. She’s been fainting and having bad dreams, but luckily she believes to have found a friend in Ruby.
Truth be told, at the beginning of this film we thought it would be another flick about a runaway teenager, with big dreams of success, but not aware of the bitter truth that that’s probably not going to happen. The story turned another way though, when Jesse seemed to become the new hit in the modeling industry. While at this point, the story was still quite average, slowly strange things started to slip into the storyline, such as Sarah’s hunger for blood or Jesse’s nightmares. This brought something so new and unexpected to the table that the story became instantly more exciting, and the further in, the bigger the excitement. The astonishment became bigger too, we have to say, and this film will certainly not be to everybody’s taste. Nonetheless, the unexpected plot twists made us sit at the edge of our seat more than once.
Elle Fanning is the star of the show, and even though in real life she’s not sixteen anymore, she remembered quite well what it felt like to be sixteen, it seems. She puts down a very pure acting performance, where you can see a clear evolution in Jesse’s behavior, from the polite, somewhat shy, unexperienced girl, to the confident model she is becoming. Jena Malone took on the other lead role of Ruby, a character both sweet and cunning, and she did so very convincingly as well.
When it comes to extras, the DVD release of The Neon Demon was a bit disappointing. There is a short clip in which director Nicolas Winding Refn and composer Cliff Martinez explain the importance of music in the film. The music does make out an important part of the film, and creates a certain atmosphere that can be slightly disturbing, thus providing some extra information was definitely a good idea. Next to that however, there is only an audio commentary with the director and Elle Fanning. Ok, but not the kind of thing most people will watch when they’ve just seen the movie.
Even though the storyline of The Neon Demon seemed quite average at first, it soon became quite interesting, with a few unexpected plot twists along the way. While these may not be to everyone’s taste, they certainly did make sure that the story was never boring in any way. What was a bit boring and underwhelming though are the extras, which were not very numerous and not very original. All things considered, this is a pretty good film if you’re up for some realistic horror.