The Neon Demon
After the release of Only God Forgives and now this, is it safe to say that Nicolas Winding Refn peaked with Drive? After Only God Forgives landed with a thud, I was able to write it off as a misfire. Unfortunately, with the release of The Neon Demon it’s hard to stay positive about his future as a filmmaker. Refn hasn’t come remotely close to recapturing what made Drive such a compelling film in either of his recent releases.
Like the models in the film, The Neon Demon’s beauty is only skin deep. It’s absolutely gorgeous to look at, but it’s completely lifeless. The underdeveloped plot and paper-thin characters take a backseat to bright lights and slick imagery. These shiny visuals can only do so much for the movie. Unfortunately, they’re unable to make The Neon Demon any less vapid.
Then there’s the fact that Refn throws in scenes of arthouse inspired absurdity. These allegorical scenes have been known to work in movies like Under the Skin, but they don’t do much for Refn’s film.
The message he’s trying to tell the audience isn’t overly complex, and these surreal scenes do little to peak the audience’s interest. It’s frustrating that The Neon Demon sits somewhere between an arthouse film and a straightforward psychological horror film. If Refn would’ve just stuck with one, it may not have been such a jumbled mess.
In the end, it’s hard to recommend The Neon Demon to anyone. There are positive aspects to the film. Elle Fanning does a fine job with what’s given to her and the visuals are, as previously stated, gorgeous.
The negative aspects outweigh the positive aspects by a pretty noteworthy amount, though. If you need to see a Refn movie, rewatch Drive or check out his underappreciated Pusher trilogy. This isn’t the movie you’re looking for.
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