Movie Date: The Neon Demon
STARRING: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Keanu Reeves
DIRECTOR: Nicolas Winding Refn
THE SKINNY: Jesse (Fanning) is a 16-year-old girl who knows she has no talent, and decides to make money from her looks, becoming a model. The modelling world is captivated by her fresh-faced beauty, and soon fashion designers and photographers all want a piece of her. Naturally, it doesn't take long for green-eyed rivals to plot to devour their competition for good.
THE CONSENSUS: Arty types will love the sparkling sexiness, while your average gals and guys will likely be put off.
The fashion world is a fairyland.
For the vast majority of us, it's the beautiful realm of magic and mystery that will forever remain just out of reach.
The Neon Demon invites us in.
I'm not qualified to say whether or not it gives us anything resembling an accurate representation of Western culture's ultimate demi-monde, but what it does do is confirm and amplify all the stereotypes.
Our seemingly-innocent small-town heroine gets swept into a predictably decadent world of sleazy photographers and bitchy models.
The sex is filthy.
The decorating is lovely.
LA is all palm trees and swimming pools.
I love it, of course.
My favourite scene is a sort of dream sequence, in which our heroine strides toward a neon symbol of three triangles, kind of like the Chvrches logo. She then sees herself kissing mirror images of herself.
It's all lit in red and blue.
Synths tinkle prettily.
This is the sort of thing you'd see in a New Wave video from 1982, not in a contemporary feature film.
There's no sense talking about the acting or even the story, as a film like this lives or dies on its mood and style.
All I can tell you is that it evokes that sense of early-80s posthumanism to perfection.
Human beings as some new thing, well coiffed but utterly empty.
It would all be so sad if it weren't so sexy.
JASON JOHNSON 5/5
Beauty isn't the only thing - it's everything.
This bold remark made by a fashion designer in the film summarises the entire movie.
Not only does director Refn give us stunningly stylish visuals, his nearly all-female cast is gorgeously photogenic.
Fanning is excellent as Jesse, striving to emote as much as she can. She looks the part of the pretty ingenue, yet imbues her with some edge, making her not as naive as she appears.
Malone is superb as the street-wise, jaded advisor-cum-friend Ruby, while Lee is a revelation as the jealous acquaintance Sarah, chewing up every scene as a one-time top model now a victim of ageism.
Unfortunately, each character is thinly written, which evokes that saying that beauty is only skin deep.
There are some bizarre moments, such as an intrusion by a mountain lion and unexplained triangle symbols.
The addition of Reeves as a sleazy motel manager feels out of place too.
Is this a horror flick, a rags-to-riches coming-of-age story or a social commentary on the superficial modelling industry where beauty is king and youth is a prized commodity?
Maybe the message is too deep for me to understand.
Then again, this is a twisted, off-kilter tale after all.
JOANNE SOH 2/5