If you really liked Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive then there is probably no reason as to why you would not love Neon Demon. Remembering the manner to which Drive put you in an atmosphere where nothing was certain and caressed with pulsating new wave synths along with some colour co-ordinated shots which made you unease and anxious at the same time. Refn is slowly but surely becoming the master of this new generation of directors in making us feel that way just like Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick has done in the past. Neon Demon seems to be like a continuation or a sidebar of a story that has culminated out of Drive because all of those same type of elements are present where a lot of things are bright but knowing there is a horrific dark side to it all. The manner to which Refn stylizes the film is very similar to that of the film version of the late 80’s classic Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero where again goes the saying that all that glitters is not gold.
We’ll start with the main character Jesse who is played by Elle Fanning who decides to take on a modelling career in the city of Los Angeles. She is naturally beautiful, naive and makes heads turn as all models do from small towns. She becomes the centre of attention of a make-up artist Ruby, played by Jena Malone, who is beauty obsessed along with her model friends Gigi, played by Jenna Heathcote, and Sarah, played by Abbey Lee. They all want to get to know her better but all at the same time are jealous of her beauty and the way she is just scooping up modelling gigs no problem. Things start to turn for the worst at the motel she is staying at because her motel landlord, played by Keanu Reeves, becomes heavily obsessed with the tenant at 214 who is similar to Jesse but several years younger. This is where Jesse cries for help and goes to Ruby but at this point all the tensions have risen between the three women and Jesse and it is of a sexually cannibalistic nature which does not bode well for her.
If this is a film where fans would go for style over substance than Neon Demon is certainly it. There are scenes to which Jesse should be all excited about in getting her modelling career going but it is done on a background where the rooms, the crew and the photographer feel creepy and intimidating. Of course this is the city of Los Angeles which is the city of dreams but Refn creates a feeling where nothing is trustworthy. Even in the dressing rooms where Refn shoots some of most amazing shots done like Kubrick’s The Shining, the audience feels as though pursuing your dreams can also mean being buried six feet under. What is beauty? What is sexually obsessed? What is jealousy? All these questions are answered in this cinematically captivating film that will have you wondering if Neon Demon truly reflects the modelling industry. Of course, that’s just another story.