Recently, director Nicolas Winding Refn released a new cinematic movie which has stirred a lot of controversy. The Neon Demon is a movie about one young girls journey to Los Angeles to become the next big fashion model and faces some very jealous rivals along the way. Sounds normal enough, no? Well, that's where you're wrong. If you wanted to watch this movie and don't want spoilers, don't read this.
The Neon Demon is about as messed up as a movie can get. Despite this, I personally loved the movie and thought it conveyed its message brilliantly, but lots of people have been saying the movie was a complete failure and I'd like to understand why so many people think this.
The aim of this movie is to express how corrupt the modelling agency is, in my opinion. It's riddled with women who think the only thing that matters in life is their beauty and will do anything to preserve it. it explores how people get old and 'ugly' only to envy the younger generation.
To do this, the movie has 16 year old Jesse (Elle Fanning) run away to LA to join a modelling agency. She is instantly successful, much to the jealousy of other pending models. We see her meet dodgy photographers and dangerous motel owners, but surprisingly, Jesse is not harmed by either of these characters. Instead, her danger begins when she falls in love with herself- intoxicated by her own beauty and transforming into a narcissistic monster.
The three other female characters in this movie are a makeup artist and two other models (Abbey Lee, Bella Heathcote). It's instantly apparent that these two models envy Jesse, her natural beauty and ability to rise to the top instantly. Their jealousy only grows as Jesse lands more and more jobs and photoshoots whilst she remains natural and real, as opposed to fake and plastic like the other women. It's instantly conveyed that Jesse cannot trust these women, nor can she trust her rapist of a motel manager (Keanu Reeves) or sexually-exposing photographers.
It seems that the only people Jesse can trust are her implied love interest Dean (completely irrelevant to plot, if you ask me) and her makeup artist 'friend', Ruby (Jena Malone). Ruby meets Jesse at her first photoshoot where the two strike up a friendship. However, it's apparent that Ruby is sexually attracted to Jesse after a few encounters. She frequently flirts with Jesse and is often seen looking at her with evident lust. Now, this is where the movie gets very messed up and if you're sensitive to triggering or have a faint heart, perhaps stop reading.
When Jesse has to find a safe home after hearing her motel owner raping a thirteen year old girl in the room besides hers, she finds shelter in Ruby's eerily old house. The movie takes a vicious turn once Ruby then tries to have sex with Jesse, despite Jesse's protests, practically making the incident sexual assault and attempted rape until Jesse forces Ruby away. After being rejected, Ruby leaves to the morgue where she works as a funeral makeup artist. The movie gets very grim when Ruby finds a corpse that resembles Jesse and, you guessed it, she has sex with it. This is the point where many people turned this movie right off, but I believe this holds metaphoric and symbolical meaning.
After this encounter, Ruby and the two models (Gigi and Sarah) arrive at Ruby's home where Jesse is still seeking refuge. Here, they brutally murder her. The three proceed to devour parts of her corpse and bathe in her blood. Gruesome, no? This bloody and stomach-turning ending is what put most of this movie's viewers off the movie, but I think it was a very clever way of expressing how toxic the modelling scene is.
My break down of this movie is simple. People feed off of beauty. Especially in such an industry as modelling, the younger and more beautiful are envied because they are still fertile and pure. So, the movie symbolises this by having three women who were growing old and uncared for due to their decaying beauty and had them consume a younger, more beautiful model. This way, they regained their fertility (shown through a disturbing scene of Ruby bleeding afterwards) and youthful beauty (Gigi and Sarah both get new modelling jobs as soon as they've killed and consumed Jesse.) This movie shows how destructive and twisted the industry of beauty really is and seeks to expose this vile truth in an admittedly vulgar and exaggerated manner.
Anyway, this was just a little review of a movie which I believe will now be one of my favourites. It upset me to see it get so much negative feedback and if anyone has seen this movie or has read this and wants to share their opinions on why they think this was a good movie with good messages or a bad movie with bad messages, please do! I'd love to understand how other people and film-fanatics see this movie and it's meaning!
The Neon Demon: Artistic Adroit or Foul Failure?
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