Nicolas Winding Refn directed one of my all time favourite movies ‘Drive’. It’s a popular choice but this only shows its amazing quality. As a result I will always be interested in the latest projects from Winding Refn. Before ‘The Neon Demon’ he released ‘Only God Forgives’, I wasn’t so much of a fan but I really want to revisit it soon. I knew to expect weird in ‘The Neon Demon’ and was prepared for more of an experience than a movie. In this review I’ll attempt to formulate some words to describe what I thought about this utterly bonkers movie.
From early reports the biggest complaint about the movie I had seen was it’s lack of narrative, so I really was just expecting a collection of disjointed scenes rather than a story. However, I was pleasantly surprised as I found more than enough narratively here to stimulate me. I’ll admit for many cinema goers it won’t be enough but those who appreciate the look and sound of a film too won’t have a problem. Naturally with this being a Winding Refn film many of the narrative elements to the film are extreme, some audience members will hate these, others will find them unnecessary and there will be those who accept them as part of the story. I think I fall into that final category however I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a little uncomfortable watching many of them. The director has used many tools to ensure that the viewer is always engaging in the film regardless of the truly bizarre narrative. Winding Refn once again reunites with composer Cliff Martinez resulting in a mesmerising score combined with a great selection of songs. The soundtrack gives the film pace, mystery and energy and at times comes close to topping this director/composer collaboration from ‘Drive’. As well as being a treat for the ears ‘The Neon Demon’ also looks stunning. Appropriately so in a film which centres around the theme of beauty the cinematography is wonderful. When the narrative, soundtrack & cinematography all combine there are some unreal scenes which make for a great time at the cinema.
The cast for the film is relatively small as per usual with Winding Refn. Previous collaborator Christina Hendricks returns with a small role here but she makes the most of her screen time. Keanu Reeves also stars here with a slightly more substantial role doing well playing a different kind of character than we are used to. Karl Glusman, an unknown actor to me, plays another of the smaller roles here but again does well. The main cast is made up of four ladies. Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote & Abbey Lee. Each of these actresses portrays a character from the world of modelling and they are all so convincing. Elle Fanning is the lead here and she does a great job developing her character as the film progresses. Jenna Malone probably has some of the most difficult scenes to act, she’s brave and gives her all to them making them seem shockingly realistic. Heathcote & Lee play two already established models and are so authentic in their roles. My only complaint with the cast/characters is that some of the models were hard to distinguish between, the nature of costume changes, different make up etc meant I wasn’t always sure on which character had done what or been where. However, this is a small complaint and I really thought the cast did tremendously well considering what the narrative asked of them.
Ultimately ‘The Neon Demon’ was just so refreshingly original, weird yes, but original. There is definite narrative there but it may be too thin or extreme for some viewers. Winding Refn has delivered another hypnotising experience of a film. The soundtrack and cinematography are enough to warrant praise for the film alone but also with great performances and an engaging narrative ‘The Neon Demon’ is easily one of Winding Refn’s best works.
Rating – 8/10
Question: What is your favourite film by Nicolas Winding Refn?
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