“The wicked die young.”
THE NEON DEMON
My Rating: 2/5 Stars
Jesse moves to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a model, but when her youth and beauty are both adored and obsessed over by those in the industry, fame hungry models will do whatever it takes to steal what Jesse has.
*If you do not want the film ruined or spoiled, skip straight to the “MY FEELS” section at the bottom to hear just how I felt about The Neon Demon, without any spoilers.*
THE FILM BREAKDOWN:
When I hit “Play,” I couldn’t help but notice that The Neon Demon was 1 hour and 57 minutes long. While most people would maybe scoff and choose another movie to watch, I very much appreciate a hefty full length film that can remove you entirely from your current situation and take you away for 2 hours… It’s like a small vacation!
Unfortunately, I felt like this movie could’ve been cut in half, if not fourths.
Jesse appears to strike the jackpot on her first photoshoot when she meets a makeup artist, and her first friend, Ruby. She also scores the admiration of her photographer, Dean the super-broody-babe, who immediately falls in love with her and doesn’t seem to mind at all that she’s only 16. (Don’t worry- He’s a gentleman.)
With no family to speak of, Jesse lives in a seedy motel that is run by a perverted pedophiliac slumlord. (Played by, none other than, Keanu Reeves, ha!)
Ruby introduces Jesse to two other models in the industry, Gigi and Sarah, who become absolutely miserable when they discover how successful Jesse has become in such a short amount of time. It also disturbs them greatly that Jesse’s beauty is natural, considering the mass quantities of nips and tucks they’ve both endured to achieve their modeling dreams.
After the once modest, shy, and pure Jesse books one of the largest runway shows, her attitude starts to drastically change. For the first time in the film, she slaps on some eyeshadow with a dark lip, and suddenly she’s the f*cking sh*t.
She ditches Dean’s fine ass, who paid off her debts to the slumlord, stuck up for her when no one else would, and was the only person who truly cared for her well being.
… Needless to say, this is really when things start to go south for Jesse.
After a sketchy night at the motel where she may or may not have overheard a murder/rape of a 13 year old girl in the room next door, she goes to stay with Ruby where she is then almost raped by the only friend she thought she had. (Jesse also never calls the police to help that girl, by the way.)
Instead, Ruby takes her sexual frustrations out on a dead body. Yas, girl, you read that correctly. Ruby happens to work a side job fulfilling the makeup needs for a funeral home. So, while she fantasizes about Jesse, she takes advantage of a freshly dead and autopsied woman.
Once Ruby returns from her necrom-antics, Jesse goes on a monologue on top a diving board about how perfect and beautiful she is, and how everyone “cuts and stuffs” just to look like knock-off versions of her, and how they will never acquire the beauty that she so naturally has.
(Side note: We’re about 1 hour and 45 minutes in, and I started to feel like I just wasted my entire night watching an episode of “True Life” about the types of girls I desperately avoided in high school.)
Thankfully, Gigi, Sarah, and Ruby murder Jesse and eat her. It’s not very graphic, it’s not very climactic, it just simply happens in under 2 minutes.
Jesse is ultimately pushed into an empty swimming pool where she bleeds out. Gigi and Sarah proceed eat Jesse, while Ruby takes a bath soaking in a tub full of Jesse’s youthful blood.
The next day while Gigi and Sarah are on a photoshoot with an extra important photographer, Sarah becomes ill while staring off into the swimming pool. She runs off, tells Gigi, “I have to get her out of me,” and proceeds to hack up a human eyeball, and then uses a pair of scissors to cut open her stomach before dying.
Gigi eats the vomited Jesse eyeball, turns around, and goes back to set.
I wanted this movie to be Chuck Palahniuk’s “Invisible Monsters,” mixed with “Starry Eyes,” mixed maybe even a little “Ava’s Possessions.”
What I received was more like “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” had a baby with something that only aspired to be “Starry Eyes,” but fell short a few chromosomes, and then went out and got drunk with “Mean Girls.”
Sure, maybe my hopes were too high, or perhaps I didn’t do enough research about the film prior to the viewing. However, I am equally enthralled and disappointed all at the same time.
This movie was an ART PIECE. Shot after shot, each more stunning than the last, The Neon Demon was like watching true moving art. Most scenes looked like installations you would see walking through an art museum. Everything looked perfect.
The lighting was marvelous. I can only assume that the director had paid very close attention in color theory, because I was blown away by the shifting in colors and moods, and also how well the score had gone with each passing moment and vibe.
I cannot express enough how STUNNING this film looked from the very beginning to the very end.
With that being said, everything else left much to be desired.
The characters were unrelatable, dull, and shallow. Even when Jesse was a modest and kind girl from a small town, when she was at her most relatable and loving, I still felt like she was bland and uninteresting. Her character never once emoted any excitement, happiness, or vulnerability. It was as if she was a robot going through the motions.
I never liked Jesse, perhaps I was never supposed to. However, it was rather disappointing to have no feelings for her at all, even in the slightest, when you just watched her for 1 hour and 45 minutes. It speaks volumes, to me, about the character writing and development in this film.
Additionally, the climax, or lack there of, was almost nonexistent… And what a shame, because it had such a long build up that I truly couldn’t wait for the moment that everything fell apart. And don’t get me wrong, things fell apart, but in the most barren way possible.
I felt let down. While watching the slow, (and rather frustrating), build up of The Neon Demon, I kept telling myself, “there has to be a payoff, just wait.” But that payoff never really came.
I kept catching, what I considered to be, symbolism and hidden meanings throughout the last 20 minutes of this movie… but ultimately I decided that I don’t think this movie was that complicated, or deep enough, to look into the symbols and meanings I noticed.
There was nothing else going on in the other hour and 40 minutes of the film that would lead you to believe that these girls were anything more than shallow, fame hungry, assholes.
Like “Starry Eyes,” I would’ve almost preferred there to be a larger force at work throughout this film. And, again, there could’ve been based on Jesse’s dream sequences, the scattered neon symbols, and a bizarre 3 minute stretch towards the end of the movie. If there was a mystical layer to The Neon Demon, it seemed to be forced in at the 11th hour and did not make the characters or story more intriguing. It didn’t tie in anything or help anything to come full circle. It seemed like a pointless effort.
This left me feeling how I felt after watching “Beyond the Black Rainbow.” Filmed beautifully, great score, could’ve possibly had deeper meanings, but that cannot and will not carry a film entirely. Without the other important aspects, such as character development, a strong storyline, and a climax, it’s just “okay.”
Unfortunately, this movie didn’t live up to it’s hype for me.
*Tell me what you thought of The Neon Demon! If you don’t agree, I promise not to go all Gigi, Sarah, and Ruby on you.*