Movie review: The Neon Demon is awkward and drags on

The Neon Demon is a drama thriller that captures the difficulty of being a rising star in the model industry. A sixteen-year-old girl, Jesse (Elle Fanning), arrives in Los Angeles in hopes of jumpstarting her career as a model. The movie starts with her in a photoshoot for Dean (Karl Glusman), a guy who is kind of her boyfriend in the film, and I say ‘kind of’ because he only appears for a few scenes.

Jesse visits a larger name model agency where the casting girl tells Jesse she thinks she is going to be great. Jesse lands a photo shoot with a big name photographer, Jack (Desmond Harrington), and she begins transforming as a character after this photo shoot.

A trio of venomous ladies, whose bite is deadlier than their bark, prey on Jesse and her innocent, perfect beauty. These girls’ unquenchable thirst for power and perfection is the driving force of their jealousy toward Jesse. That special “it” quality everyone wants, Jesse is naturally beautiful and doesn’t need any plastic surgery done to modify her body or face.

The Neon Demon is the latest film from the visionary Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, who also created and directed Only God Forgives. His high style and ability to keep the viewer suspended in fear makes the movie bearable.

Each detail in the movie is deliberate: the positioning of each object, the angle of Refn’s shooting, vibrant colors and fashionable setting. It’s hard not to think Refn knew what he was doing, but that still doesn’t mean we, as an audience, have to understand him completely.

I couldn’t escape feeling awkward vibes in differing scenes from differing characters constantly throughout the film. By drawing out the dialogue between characters and prolonging the focus on still images, Refn creates suspense. But even though some moments were suspenseful, they were also lacking in effectiveness.

Refn made me bored throughout a good portion of the film, but he also made me watch in awe at his directorial style. Usually films outweigh certain vibes at a certain point of a film and go with one or the other, whether it be for the good or bad depends. Refn was impressive with his gruesome visual masterpiece, despite the lack of an easily comprehensible story plot.

From the beginning of the movie, I was captivated by the opening frame of Jesse laying on a silver couch. Blood is blanketing her chest from the neck down, pooling a lake of blood beneath her. I wasn’t sure if she was dead until flashes from a Polaroid camera started blinking over her.

Despite enjoying the film for being left baffled at the incredible directorial high style of Nicolas Winding Refn, this movie isn’t for everyone. The runtime on the movie is 1 hour and 58 minutes, but by the time I was an hour in, I felt like two hours had already passed by. Patience isn’t necessary because there isn’t anything to be patient for. The Neon Demon relies on symbolism and deeper meaning to convey the story.


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