Friday, April 14, 2017

The Neon Demon (2016)


So this movie got a lot of bad reviews when it came out. I remember a particular reviewer I usually trust saying it was the worst movie the year and that it made him physically ill. Of course, that got my attention. Not the physically ill part, but the vehemence he leveled at the film. He did the same thing to David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, and I love that movie. So I think it was time for me to visit The Neon Demon.


Jesse (Elle Fanning) comes to Los Angeles to launch her modeling career. She stays at a seedy motel managed by an unhinged Hank (Keanu Reeves in a wonderfully odd performance). Her friend Dean (Karl Glusman) takes some photos to get her portfolio started. Soon she is discovered and starts to climb the ladder of success.

She meets Ruby (Jena Malone) a makeup artist to takes a shine to her and wants to be her BFF. But other models see Jesse as a real threat to their careers. She’s too popular, too beautiful and too pure. Something has to be done. As Jesse continues on her journey, success creates its own dangers. Before long the Neon Demon is staring out of the mirror back at Jesse, and everything changes.

Good Points:
  • Jaw dropping use of color to create dreamlike visuals you won’t forget
  • Some brave and disturbing performances especially from Fanning and Malone
  • A wonderful score by Cliff Martinez that puts you into the glittering world

Bad Points:
  • The overall message and themes are familiar ones
  • The plot is very simple and straightforward – the execution isn’t
  • Has a few scenes meant to shock and disturb - deeply


Um yeah this movie is not for everyone. If you appreciate David Lynch and movies like Enemy or Perfect Blue than this may be something you’ll appreciate. It is a movie crafted with amazing visuals, sound and music exploring the themes of obsession with beauty and how vanity ultimately corrupts and consumes. Not new ideas and the plot is pretty obvious. But the way the story is told, the way it creeps under your skin, the way is entrances and horrifies all at once impressed me. Style over substance, yeah. Will some see at as pretentious, oh hell yes. But I loved every neon lit, blood dripping minute of it.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 5
Sound: 5
Acting: 4
Script: 3
Music: 5
Direction: 5
Entertainment: 4
Total: 4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.

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  1. I'm wondering who that movie reviewer was that didn't like it. Granted as you said it is a rather polarizing movie and it's not going to appeal to everyone. But even so, if one watches it objectively at least one can see it's put together well, directed well, an unusual story, good visuals, and it's not cliched with super heroes, fart jokes, explosions, car chases, zombies, or some CGI fuckfest.

    The thing is with the internet today there's always going to be a dissenting opinion, which in truth, there always was, it's just more noticeable now. Heck Siskel & Ebert disagreed. I guess if a movie can get around a 75% rating these days on Rotten Tomatoes it's doing good. But yeah, I enjoyed it for the reasons that I listed above ie. not being cliched and made you think, et al.

    1. It was James Berardinelli. I'm not too surprised he didn't care for it. Was I mentioned he isn't a big fan of David Lynch and "Neon Demon" certainly has a Lynch feel to it. At the same time his reaction to it was so negative I was surprised. It kind of reminded me of Ebert's reaction to "Blue Velvet". :)

      Usually he and I are on the same page when it comes to films. But 007 and Lynch are really the only two areas where we really don't agree.

      Glad to see someone else was positive about it. Stuckman also gave it a positive review.

  2. Corruption of an ingenue is, as you say, an old theme. That doesn't make it a bad idea to revisit and more than the eternal triangle should be avoided because it's been done before. Both are recurring human experiences after all. I have been hesitant to see this because of the so-so reviews, but Elle Fanning seems a good fit for the part.

    1. Give it a shot. I'd like to hear your thoughts on it. Certainly more of an art film than a straight shooter, but the visuals are really something else.