The Neon Demon (2016)

 

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Nicholas Winding Refn directs Elle Fanning, Jena Malone and Keanu Reeves in this hyper stylised look at a fledgling LA model’s brush with fame and hell.

Mean Girls meets Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me! Black Swan meets Zoolander! You can easily write 100 of these accurate reductions for The Neon Demon and that is part of the fun. Like Tarantino, NWR is a sampler and remixer of other movies (though his record carry case contains easy to place classic hits rather than Quent’s more obscure and hip white vinyl). And here he manages to mega mix a knowing rave of light, shimmer, surface and sexiness… And threat, constant, often intangible threat. A film so winkingly vapid that 50% is told in the reflections of mirrors, if not reflections of reflections – so all that matters is what we are looking at, who cares how it feels? Characters rarely touch unless it is to expertly apply or smear make-up and if ever they do actually connect, it is violently. Elle Fanning is magical as the less than naive naïf who promises a lot (many of her interactions involve making false deals she won’t deliver on), is desired by all and walks the fine line between hero and possible villain. The quite frankly amazing Jena Malone steals the show as a friendly make-up artist who you can’t quite trust. At times the pace can be a little too coy; the male support is well cast (Alessandro Nivola and Reeves kill in small roles) but feel sidelined by the last hour, and that aggressive punchline finale and epilogue will leave a bad taste in many mouths (I swallowed it whole) but as a gory, teasing peephole to a kaleidoscope of glitter, flesh and… well, strobing gorgeous neon, The Neon Demon wins.

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