Solo at the Cinema: The Neon Demon Review (And Thoughts on Angelika Film Center)

Here is a special edition of Solo at the Cinema! This was my first California theater experience, not that it’s dramatically different, but I was excited to see a movie here. I’m not too far from the film capital of the world, so I figured Southern California would have bigger and better options for the movie-going experience. Up the street from me is the Angelika Film Center and Cafe, a high end chain that offers state of the art facilities, plush leather seats, actual food, and alcohol (Yay!). I felt as if I was headed to a movie premier. Also if you’re afraid to look like a loner pants, there’s a self-ticketing machine where you can swipe your card, and print out a ticket. Handy! The theater also hosts festivals, and shows a variety of independent films- much to my delight. On a side note, ticket prices here are out of this world! I attended a Wake screening for $8.50. Regular price is $16, way higher than back home. But hey, I really needed a break from the sun and from the frustration of job hunting, so I decided to see a movie.

Photo Courtesy of AngelikaFilmCenter.com

Today’s film of choice was The Neon Demon. I’ve heard the buzz around it, and it looked interesting to me, so I decided to check it out. I also wanted to see something differnet. I’ve noticed so far that the films I review contain a lot of the same actors (Because I am very picky about what mainstream movies I see), and are similar genres. It was time for a change. I’ve been interested in indie films, but rarely had the outlet to see them. Even though the theater was busy, I was lucky enough to get a whole cinema to myself. That alone is worth the admission price.

The Neon Demon

Starring: Elle Fanning, Keanu Reeves, Jena Malone, Abbey Lee, Bella Heathcote

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Report Card

Photo Still from the Neon Demon

Story: B-

While the film is at times more style over substance, it doesn’t lack originality. It follows the story of Jesse (Elle Fanning), an innocent 16-year-old who moves to Los Angeles to become a model. After her arrival, she quickly rises, praised to be the next big thing, much to the disdain of fellow models- Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee) who are obsessed with staying in the industry. Gigi is the “bionic” woman who constantly alters her appearance to stay ahead. Sarah is desperate to stay relevant. Jesse has that IT quality, she commands the attention of those around her, especially makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone). Throughout the film, we see Jesse’s swift ascension, and change from naive small town girl, to it-model. She doesn’t even try, she just falls into whatever situation she comes across. The film is dark, enchanting, and disgusting at the same time. This film is one of the rare films you have to see to form your own opinion. I was glad I got to experience it alone. Necrophilia, cannibalism, pedophilia- it’s all here. This is not for the faint of heart. It’s a dark satire of the fashion industry and beauty in general.

#Aesthetics: A +++

The Neon Demon is truly a visual spectacle. Director Nicolas Winding Refn carefully planned every scene, and you can tell that nothing is placed by accident. Every color, angle, all the set lighting are strategically placed, and chock full of symbolism. For some reason, I was reminded of Lady Gaga’s video Paparazzi. My favorite scene was Jesse’s fashion show debut. It was definately Alexander McQueen-esque, and conveyed a sinister change of events in the film. If you love fashion and pretty things, this film may be for you.

Ear Porn: A

Composer Cliff Martinez creates an ethereal, twilight zone-like score to match to otherworldly visuals and creepy atmosphere. The dance music wasn’t too bad either.

Representin’: D+

The cast is minimal (About 10 actual characters), so there is easily little representation. Ruby is an LGBT character, but she isn’t a good kind of representation really (A murderous necrophiliac). I really don’t have much to say about the diversity in this instance. Was it necessary? I’m not so sure.

Girl Power: F

This film centers around beauty and the superficial. The unnamed fashion designer (Alessandro Nivola) states that beauty is the only thing that matters and makes a good argument that Dean (Karl Glusman) wouldn’t haven’t even looked at Jesse or taken the time to get to know her if it weren’t for her beauty- which is sadly true. As in the real fashion industry, the women are living clothes hangers. They’re disposable and don’t really serve any other purpose. Models Gigi and Sarah thrive on the superficial and the thrill of being on top. So much so, that they murder Jesse and consume her body for that IT factor she had. None of the females in this film have redeeming qualities. I liked Jesse at first, but as the film progressed, she let the attention she was receiving go to her head, which lead to her unfortunate downfall. With the exception of Ruby, every other female character is a hollow shell.

Box Office: D

Right now the film has made around $600,000 in its opening weekend. The budget is reported to be $7 million. Being an independent film, and being released at the peak of summer blockbuster season, it is no match. I do see some streaming and DVD sales in the future.

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