The Neon Demon

NOTE: If you haven't seen this movie yet and you don't want it spoiled, read only the first three paragraphs.

I knew I was right not to perv out on Elle Fanning when the trailer for The Neon Demon hit the webnet.  She was only 16 when she shot this flick.  Her character, Jesse, does things a 16-year-old shouldn't do, man.  I'm sure that shit's legal in...I don't know, fucking Arkansas, but to me, she still looks like the adorable kid in Super 8.  Then again, Jesse is 16.  So it's supposed to be a pensive, well-nigh bereaved film.  That's the vibe I picked up on when I viewed The Neon Demon last night.  I've been wanting to see it for ages (legal ages, that is).  Ideally, I would have seen it during its theatrical run locally, and before you punctuate my sentence with your defensive interference (first down at the spot of the foul), I realize that this stylish bite of horror hasn't left theaters.  Hence the word "locally."

Unfortunately, I couldn't make it out in time.  Now that I've eyeballed The Neon Demon, I can safely say FUCK!  I should have tried harder!  This isn't a movie; it's a mural.  "Beautiful" doesn't begin to describe the visuals on display.  Director Nicolas Winding Refn frames his shots in such a fashion that they stain your cornea.  But I'll be damned if I buy a bottle of Clorox to remove these dazzling stains.  Plus, my mom told me not to spray Clorox directly into my eyes.  Again.  I could go blind, or color blind.  Speaking of which, I learned that Refn is color blind.  Yeah.  I didn't believe it either. Apparently, he goes by contrast because he doesn't notice the muted shades in between the loud pops of, say, red and purple.

Is this a case of style over substance?  Not so fast.  Refn may have been influenced by Argento, but he only cribbed the constructive habits.  There is a linear story here.  Jesse shows up in Los Angeles with "gullible" stamped on her forehead.  She wants to be a model (or rather, she feels that's all she has to offer the world), and she is told by an agent to lie about her age.  Naturally, everyone she meets tries to take advantage of her.  A petite guff, if I may be so bold. Early in the film, the photographer helping Jesse along the way becomes aware of her true age.  It was implied that they like-liked each other, but hey, he agrees to help her anyway.  What a swell trooper!  In the next goddamn scene, he endeavors to make out with her.

Ugh.  Up to that point, he was the sole likable character, aside from Jesse.  The film redeems him, acting as if the statutory effort never happened.  It's weird.  It's worth repeating that the rest of the characters - aside from the cherubic Jesse - are dickbags.  You know what else is worth repeating?  A great cast!  That would be more clever if I had acknowledged the cast once already.  My favorite soubrette (term used incorrectly) is Jena Malone, and it doesn't hurt that I've had a minor crush on her since 2001's Donnie Darko.  Her performance is the most transformative.  I can imagine Keanu Reeves being an asshole (not that he is), but I can't imagine Malone bonking a corpse.  Technically, she bonked herself while...eh, you get the picture.

In my special opinion, Abbey Lee is tremendous as Sarah, a peevish, yet diffident model.  She's hungry.  Did I specify that she's hungry?  Lee hasn't been acting long, but it doesn't show.  I had no idea that she played The Dag in Mad Max: Fury Road.  You go, ghoul!  I've read interpretations of The Neon Demon's metaphors (not to mention its ending), and I have my own.  There is room for analysis, but I didn't find the basic plot to be overly complicated. Having said that, I'm ready to rewind and play it from the first reel!  I recommend this carcass-screwing, Fanning-eating, menstruation-celebrating Suspiria homage to fans of exploitation filmmaking at its finest.

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