The Neon Demon: Disturbingly Beautiful

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

There have been films in the past that have unravelled the Los Angeles dream myth, and that show the seedy darkness that encapsulates the city of glitz and glamour.

There is David Lynch's film noir Mulholland Drive, and David Cronenberg's dark comedy Maps to the Stars. This is not the first time Nicolas Winding Refn has explored the dark side of Los Angeles, with its criminal underworld showcased in his 2011 film, Drive. The Neon Demon explores the dark side of the glamorous modelling industry. Refn dissects the industry though exploitation, set to a jarring hardcore-eighties synth score by composer Cliff Martinez.

Jesse (Elle Fanning) is new to the Los Angeles scene, and is trying to break into the modelling business, making new contacts along the way. Jan (Christina Hendricks) and Ruby (Jena Malone) are two adults that give her advice on how to fit into the world, despite being under age. As Jan puts it, "Say you're 19. Always 19". There are a lot of misconceptions about Ruby, who works as make up artist and extends her talents to the morgue. Los Angeles hosts some unsavoury characters from a shady hotel manager that preys on women (Keanu Reeves). Rival models Sarah (Abbey Lee) and Gigi (Bella Heathcote) are trying to stay forever young, and enviously give the stink eye to Jesse with every promotion she gets. Under the glitz and glam of the model industry is its seedy and exploitative nature, which Refen does not shy away from with the 16+ rating. The film becomes a psychological horror thriller that has to be one of the most disturbing endings to a film since the Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

The Neon Demon enthralls, captivates, and disturbs the audience all at the same time. At times you want to look at the beauty on screen in the deep tonal blues or neon pink, but the deep vibrant red will disturb some audience members. As well, a note that there are sections of the film that have strobe lighting effects, for some audience members who feel uncomfortable. Without a doubt, The Neon Demon is devastatingly beautiful to watch as Cliff Martinez pulsates one of the best scores of this year into the film. 

Rating: 4.5/5


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