Nicolas Winding Refn reenters the cinematic world after a three-year hiatus with The Neon Demon: a twisted and beautiful dissection of all that reigns throughout the closed doors of the modeling industry. Following Jesse (Elle Fanning), an up and coming model in Los Angeles who immediately stops the breath of all that surround her. As she quickly settles her way into the deep, dark abyss of the modeling industry, Jesse quickly begins to develop a long list of enemies ranging from all across the board.
Whether it be for better or worse, just about everybody who saw Refn’s last two films remembers his trademark neon color palette which devours every swuare inch of the screen. Often compared to a perfume commercial, Refn’s style is certainly much more fitting in The Neon Demon than in his previous two works. Instead of following Ryan Gosling out robbing a pawn shop or smack-dab in the middle of Bangkok, we find Refn’s latest muse — Elle Fanning — navigating her way through the bright cityscape of Los Angeles. With more neon than one could ever have imagined, cinematographer Natasha Braier’s work gradually begins to feel more and more like a fashion runway as Jesse quickly works her way up the ladder.
Early on in The Neon Demon, Jena Malone’s Ruby, a make-up artist that Jesse equates herself with right off the bat, says it’s the “deer in a headlights” look to her that’s grabbing the attention of so many. The most obvious takeaway from the film is Refn’s rather heavy-handed commentary on the artificiality within the modeling world. To no surprise, the biggest issue with the film overall arrive when Refn is attempting to make a gerneral statement on industry.
Refn’s strong suit has never been with handling symbolism, and he certainly hasn’t gotten any better since Only God Forgives. Luckily with his latest, he’s not as forceful with it as he was in his previous works, but there still remains quite a few scenes — one at a restuarant, in particular — that remain too overtly direct in what they’re attempting to say. It’s as if Refn doesn’t trust his audience enough to pick up on what he’s saying the first or even the second time, so he has continously keep working it into his narrative to the point where it just gets exhausting after a while.
Those going into Refn’s latest just wanting to have a good time surely won’t be dissapointed, as this certainly is the most fun you’ll have in a theater all month. With what is, without a doubt, Cliff Martinez’s most impressive collaboration with Refn to date, The Neon Demon excels in every possible aesthic area that it’s impossible not to have a fun time, especially considering just how trashy this thing is overall. From everything from nightmares featuring a deranged Keanu Reeves wielding a knife to literal human cannibalism, The Neon Demon is the type of adventure that everyone needs to experience at least once in their lifetime.