The Neon Demon: Pretty But Vacant
As a graduate of 80s music videos, I was willing to prioritize style over substance, prettiness over plot. Sadly, it’s hard to do that when you are so bored with a film that you can’t wait for the end of it!
The very, very pretty movie starts off with preternaturally beautiful yet woefully naive waif Jesse (Elle Fanning) having moved to Los Angeles to make a living off of being pretty, something that at 16 years-old and with dead parents, seems to be a poor life choice. Her “deer in the headlights” look is noted by makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone).
When we meet Jesse she’s living in a stero-typically seedy vintage L.A. motel, staffed by a seedy and angry motel manager Hank (Keanu Reeves), while trying to start a modeling career by meeting dudes with cameras on the Internet.
Soon, Jesse is going to modeling agencies, being cast in fashion shows and meeting other models. Some of the other models are not nice.
In some ways, the film does a better job of showing the unattractiveness of life in Los Angeles as a pretty young girl better than anything since Valley of the Dolls. It gives a real feeling of what it’s like to be a lovely girl who is viewed as prey in a land of experienced predators!
However, the film’s pacing is slower than nail polish drying on a humid day…
Then there’s the horror part of the film, which seems disjointed from the front half of the film. The horror half of the film contains a scene so unusual that after the screening, I asked my companion, “Is that the first [redacted] [redacted] scene on film?”
“Well, it’s the first one I’ve seen!” was my companion’s response.
Sadly, the notable horror scene seemed a little like a plastic aftermarket part clumsily stuck onto a midrange auto.
The look of the film is fantastic. Jesse is stunning in every scene, the lighting is lovely, the sets are amazing, and the music is spot on. Yet sadly the impact of the whole film is closer to watching a very pretty and overlong Lana del Rey music video, not a feature film, a horror film or a thriller.