R | 1h 57min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

*In theaters June 24th 2016*

SynopsisWhen aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.

Review - Matt Mungle

Review: There are several reasons why the new film, THE NEON DEMON, from writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn should be on your must see list. And luckily that list is longer than the reasons you should not see it. It is a stomach turning, mind bending, brain punch that will leave you questioning the art of cinema. (Note: That is a reason TO see it if you are keeping track).

The story is an unapologetic thrashing of the body image culture that is engulfing the world of beauty and fashion. (2:0) Pretty, skinny people may take the greatest offense or they may receive it as their rally cry and rejoice around a burning pile of silicone. Regardless it is a message that too few are saying and especially in the manner that NWR does here. (3:0) It is so brutally forthcoming that you often think he must be going for humor. Because it is that brazen. 

Jesse (Elle Fanning) is a 16 year old, I mean 19 year old, model fresh of the bus in LA. She is taking the modeling world by storm and leaving a lot of angry, calorie counting ladies in her dust. Heads are turning from all the big wigs and everyone wants her. But this shy, meek, young girl might be fooling them all by her modest and humble demeanor. Each scene has you second guessing the last. This can be frustrating and exhilarating at the same time. (3:1)

The supporting cast simply cant be trusted. They never give you complete cause but you just know it. The shady hotel manager (Keanu Reeves), the eccentric photographer (Desmond Harrington), and the too friendly make up artist (Jena Malone) all have enough creep factor to warrant a sideways glance. Refn uses them as a shady backdrop for Jesse to pose in front of. (4:1) Elle Fanning seems an odd choice for the role of Jesse but may be brilliance in disguise. Her character is complex but Elle doesn't do anything more than any other hundred young actresses could have done. 

It has been decades since a film took on the look of Stanley Kubrick. This one seems to resurrect him in body and spirit. Long spans of frames with Tron like lights and odd imagery will upset many. You have to love artistic design to appreciate the style. If arty is not in your like column then you will despise this one and go away missing the point. It often feels like a composition in color rather than a dramatic narrative. (4:2) This will be met with cheers and boos alike. 

The twists in genres make this a hard movie to categorize  It goes from cultural relevant art work to a demented and twisted horror flick with not even the slightest tap of the brakes. (5:2) Often you will say to yourself, "surely he isn't going to" only to follow it up with "wow, he really did." The more salacious moments teeter on the bring of thinly sliced shock value. Refn is not afraid to spit in the face (or mouth) of polite society. He handles most of these scenes well but a few times he comes close to slipping into the arena of the amateuristic. (5:3)

THE NEON DEMON is rated R for disturbing violent content, bloody images, graphic nudity, a scene of aberrant sexuality, and language. You have to embrace the direction NWR is going or you are going to take anything away. If you try and separate graphic from narrative then you miss the big picture and end up wasting your time. I give it 3.75 out of 5 eye shadows. This one stayed with me for days and the longer I was away from it the better I liked and appreciated it; and I can't wait to see it again. (6:3)

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