- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : The Neon Demon

| November 4, 2016

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of The Neon Demon.

I understand if you are tired of this film. The Reel Nerds did an entire episode on this film, straight up doing a shot for shot breakdown. But I want to do a lot of more accessible more films after the month of films that aren’t going to come out for another couple months. So we are doing this film for that reason and because a couple different people have asked/requested me to give my opinion on this film. So yeah, that’s the prequel to why I’m doing a review on this film this week.

So what did the asshole of the group think if this film? I thought it was okay. I’m wouldn’t call myself a fan of Refn. But I wouldn’t say I dislike his films either. I liked Drive and Bronson, if you haven’t see Bronson do yourself a favor and go watch Bronson, but disliked Only God Forgives. If someone was to ask me how I would rank his filmography, I would say it goes Bronson> The Neon Demon> Drive> Only God Forgives. Now that I have said this you are probably looking back up at my star rating and thinking “Hey! What’s up with that?” Well, we’ll get into it. But I think this film is really good at three-fourths of what it wants to do. Which is better than most films, but that last quarter bugged me more than I would have liked it.

First of all, this film is flat out gorgeous. The cinematographer is Natasha Braier and is one talented lady. She has also worked on The Rover and XXY. Both of which being very well shot films, but with this film, it is something different. I don’t know if Refn just lets her down whatever she wanted or if it was a collaborative effort. Where Refn’s other films are well shot, this film is on another level. And this is ten times better shot than Braier’s other work. So it’s hard to tell exactly who is responsible. Either way, this film is THE BEST shot film I’ve seen all year. I’m not exaggerating that you can pause the film at any point and that shot will be good enough to be a wallpaper. I don’t think anyone would argue that the cinematography is the film’s strongest point, but it should be noted that no one is pulling your leg or over hyping this film. This is the best shot film of the year and I would be surprised if that changes.

Let’s now talk about the acting. I would say that all of the supporting actors, besides Jena Malone, are good in the film. I was never taken out of the film because of the acting and in some scenes, like the scene where the photographer asks the other guy if this one girl is beautiful, the acting is pretty great. But there are some bad spots in the acting. It might just be me, but I could not stand Jena Malone in this film. Every line was so overacted. Every facial expression was overacted. I would say that Elle Fanning did this too, but to a much lesser extent. Fanning did it every once and a while but Malone did it with every line. She performed, ironically, like she was in a Lynch film. Like it’s dreamlike or surrealist, but that works in Lynch films because everyone is doing that and that is the point. Malone is just doing her own thing the entire time and I hated every moment of it.

The writing is fine. It was strange and definitely not why you are going to watch the film. But I’ll talk about it because I’m conflicted about it. There are certain lines in the film that are really good. Again I reference the scene about who is beautiful and why that matters. But there are a lot of lines that are extremely scripted. And I will say that I’m not against films feeling like their scripted. Aaron Sorkin is one of my favorite writers and every time I watch one of his films I think “Wow! That’s a great line!” not “Wow! This changes the story!” By definition, it takes me out of the film. But with Sorkin it works, it all flows together. With this film, you get one great line that works really well on paper by itself, but when you sandwich it together with two okay lines, it just ends up feeling forced. I felt that way through a couple different scenes in the film. Not enough for me to dislike the film, but I thought I would mention it.

I will say there is a moment in the film that was a turning point from me mostly liking the film to mostly thinking it is alright. It’s pretty much exactly halfway through the film, and it’s when you start to dislike Elle Fanning’s character. This is also when the film decides to really get weird. This is when the film would fall under “pretentious” in some people’s minds. One critic said they loved the cinematography but it’s when it gets into poor gore and special effects that turned them off. I’m not one-hundred percent on board with this critic but I think I can agree with it to an extent. Everything in the film is so good that when you get to the poor special effects, it just ripped me out of the experience. Maybe I’m being too picky and some people wouldn’t see the effects, but it brought me out and I thought I would mention it.

The film ends up being kind of silly in a way, but only after that point. That is when the film goes from being an artistic satire on the fashion industry, to being a vampire film. Which is fine, but the change is so sudden that right as I got comfortable in this world, it pushed me into a new one.

So yeah, I think it’s okay. It’s better than what some people are saying. That’s for sure. I don’t like nearly as much as James does, but I can see why he would like this film. It’s not for everyone but there is an audience for it. I’m just halfway into that audience.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.
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