The Neon Demon takes a metaphorical look at narcissism and beauty, set against the backdrop of the harsh fashion industry. Watching The Neon Demon is like putting a puzzle together. The clues are there, but what do they mean? Where do they belong? To truly enjoy the movie, attention to detail is necessary or the core message might go unnoticed. But if you have an open mind and like problem solving, you will easily discover what The Neon Demon is all about.
In a seedy motel in Pasadena, California, Jesse (Elle Fanning) lives to attain her goal of being fashion's next 'IT' girl. With youth and innocence on her side, this is something that turns other models green with envy. Her fast rise to fame seems to intimidate surgery obsessed Gigi (Bella Heathcote), the infatuated Ruby (Jenna Malone), and Sarah (Abbey Lee), the model who feels invisible. As Jesse becomes increasingly narcissistic, she ignores the warning signs and leaps head first into trouble.
The title, The Neon Demon is purposely deceptive. You might actual expect some type of demon to appear, but in actuality, the 'Neon Demon' is an ideal, not a demon from hell. It's a manifestation of the most sinister parts of the human psyche and whether or not someone is willing to succumb to their dark side.
The Neon Demon will take you on a journey of visual ecstasy with its symbolic use of lush neon red and blue hues. Director Nicolas Winding Refn is telling the audience to use the light as a guide. Ominous red flashes of light appear in scenes where you know s**t is about to go down, while the cool blue tones denote innocence, goodness, and beauty. This movie isn't about performances, as the actors aren't the focus. Their purpose is to personify emotions that sit along the narcissism spectrum. This forces the audience to ask themselves: what would you do if you were beautiful and you knew it? Would you accept it or suppress it?
Refn covers a simple premise in the most pretentious, yet refreshing way. This is his reality, and you will accept what you've being given. If you have the mental energy to figure out what you've just watched, you might leave the theater satisfied. Otherwise, you'll hate this movie and everything it represents. But the man knows his audience. He realizes they are a smart group of individuals who understand his work. Whether they love it or hate it, it will create a dialogue. Isn't that what films are supposed to do? In a sea of sequels, and CGI blockbusters, The Neon Demon is a fresh cinematic treat that is beautifully shot on a small budget.
Overall, The Neon Demon is an acquired taste. If you aren't a fan of Refn, you may find yourself wanting to smack him in the face for creating something so "vapid and shallow," as an audience member said leaving the theater. If you love the slow building tension, and a heavy shroud of suspense, take a chance on exploring the world of The Neon Demon.
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