The Neon Demon (Film) Review

I’ve been very distracted of late and not paying my best attention to anything beyond my own misery. Anxiety August, in other words, is going great. I am working my way slowly out of it though and will be back to normal soon, I have no doubt.

Until then there is this film which is definitely on the more unusual end of the spectrum. I’d seen it and discussed it before for the podcast and don’t remember liking it all that much. But for some reason when searching for a film for this week’s post I had a hankering to revisit.

*Spoilers ahoy!*

The Neon Demon (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.

Mmmmm, sticky

My Review

Beauty is a curse, innit? Well, apparently. Most of us mere mortals will never know the feeling of being so universally desired that people from all walks of life want a piece of you – and not always in the healthiest way.

Jesse (Elle Fanning) knows though, lord does she know. She pretends otherwise because that’s good grace and becoming of a small-town girl just rocked up in the City of Angels. But she knows her power and her power is great.

Alone and family-less, Jesse soon meets make-up artist Ruby (Jena Malone) on a shoot and the older girl takes our ingenue under her wing. This basically involves taking her to a fun party and introducing her to two fellow models, Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee) who are immediately threatened by Jesse’s youth and good looks. In an agonising bathroom scene, the women ponder who Jesse is fucking and which parts of her body are ‘real’.

Mean Girls 3’s setting was decidedly less glamorous than the original’s

This gives us an insight into the bitching and backstabbing of the beauty world and frankly, who would want it? These girls do though and their womanly relationships do not thrive in direct competition with one another. When Jesse attends a catwalk casting, despite having no walking experience, she nails her audition smuggly in front of Sarah, who is visibly devastated.

Later, there is an altercation between the two which takes a dark tone and Jesse is injured. She’s fine but it’s dramatic because that’s this film, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, Jesse is also having to deal with dating an older man, the creepiness of her motel landlord and the increasingly intense affections of Ruby. Her career is going from strength to strength though, so what does she care?

Well, things turn darker still when her rivals decide they’ve had enough of this comely little newcomer and Ruby, feeling rejected, instigates something terrible.

In at the deep end

TND is rife with symbolism, with comments on society’s obsession with youth and beauty – and an awful lot of it is pretentious af. Plus, I doubt I understood it all and I sort of like the film for that.

Fanning’s performance doesn’t require an awful lot of skill. She merely pouts and looks doe-eyed 99% of the time and it works for her. Jena Malone’s somewhat sneaky Ruby is probably my highlight, though some of her motivations in the name of desire aren’t to be sniffed at.

As with other Refn movies, this is a highly stylised world view and could be held up as a perfect example of style over substance.

Every frame is perfectly structured and the lighting particularly is sublime but you expect that. But is it any good beneath the neon facade? I think it’s weirdness makes it above average, if not the best film ever made.

When James and I discussed this for the podcast, I remember us drawing parallels with some fairytale elements and I still feel that here. Jesse’s the innocent left out alone in the world, coming up against all manner of threats, including The Big Bad Wolf (Keane Reeves) and the Three Witches.

And Jesse, she’s not so innocent after all. Every sweet smile, every slanted look is perfectly contrived. She’s her own cautionary tale.

My Rating

4/5. Better the second time round. Still pretentious though.

What did Wifey think? Did she gobble it up or would she send it for extensive plastic surgery? Find out here.

Oh hey…

In a World… (Film) Review

in_a_world_xlgThis week we were going to go for a Nicholas Sparks adaptation to guarantee maximum schmaltz and romance with a capital ‘R’. Because both our forays into the Romance genre so far have proven very telling about the human beings that we are, e.g. more into the anti-romance.

That’s until Netflix, the bastard (I love you!), decided to axe The Last Song without so much as a I-don’t-know-what, maybe a call or something wouldn’t have gone amiss? I mean, I was looking forward to enjoying the chemistry between Miley Cyrus and her once real-life beau, the younger Hemsworth brother. But no. Not to be, much like the doomed love affair between these annoyingly attractive young ‘uns. So no The Last Song for us.

Instead I used this opportunity to pick a film from my Netflix queue and one that has come up several times over the last few weeks. I’ll talk about it in a wee bit but first, the review.

You know the drill: *It’s a spoiler MINEFIELD*

In a World… (2013)

Director: Lake Bell
Stars: Lake Bell, Fred Melamed, Michaela Watkins

IMDB Synopsis: An underachieving voice coach finds herself competing in the movie trailer voice-over profession against her arrogant father and his protégé.

My Review:

Lake Bell wrote, directed and stars in this film, about a voice coach called Carol who wants in on the male dominated world of voiceovers. Following the death of the ‘Godfather of Industry’, Don LaFontaine (real person), there are a few big hitters waiting in the wings to take over, including Sam Sotto (Carol’s father) who’s kind of a BIG DEAL himself and his protégé, Gustav Warner (Burning Love‘s, Ken Marino).

in-a-world-01
“… and I-eeee-iiiiiiiii will always love you-eeeee-ooooooooooooooo!”

The biggest gig in voiceover land is, of course, the LaFontaine coined phrase, “In a World…”. That’s like the great white whale of jobs basically. One day, on an assignment to help turn Eva Longoria into a convincing cockney slag (“Is that what you think, you stupid slapper?”), Carol steps in for Gustav on a temp trailer for a ‘romantic comedy for children’ (he has a throat thing see). She, of course, nails the job. Then she gets some other good gigs following that, despite the lack of support from her father, who thinks Carol should stick to accents as the industry “does not crave a female voice.”. Her specialty? Her Russian Star Wars thing.

“I just really, really like these dungarees…”

Not knowing who Carol is (especially as she doesn’t share Sam Sotto’s stage name), Gustav pursues her romantically, and then harder when he learns that she’s stealing jobs from underneath him. Sam is his partner in crime, not knowing that the graphic details of Gustav’s night of passion with this woman is with his own daughter.

“Got Milk? I have… hahahahha.”

Meanwhile, Louis (Demetri Martin), the studio engineer where Carol is working with Eva, gently and awkwardly woos her too (and let me tell you, he is ADORABLE). Throw in a couple of sub-storylines, including a would-be affair between Carol’s sister, Dani and a hot Irish guest at the hotel she works at; and troubles with their father, Sam and his 30-year-old girlfriend, Jamie (Alexandra Holden); plus some hilarious minor characters, and you’ve got a pretty good film, thankyouverymuch.

LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
It’s all fun and games until a pink flamingo gets hurt…

Will girl power prevail in the end and see Carol snatching the “In a World…” gig from Sam and Gustav, despite the fact she’s a fucking WOMAN? Will she fall for the right guy? and where can I actually see this Amazonian quadrilogy starring Cameron Diaz? I mean, it’s basically Mad Max: Fury Road Redux but I would be all over it like creeping ivy, man.

You can see for yourself because this movie is out there for the taking.

My Thoughts:

I liked this movie a lot because, after horror, these are exactly the kinds of movies I crave. I bloody love a quirky, Indie comedy and I like it even better when they give me a protagonist I can actually imagine talking about cocks with. In short, she’s likeable and almost like a real person, and that my friends, is a very good thing.

There isn’t much I don’t like about In a World…, it gave me laughs and it also gave me a couple of lump in the throat moments, particularly when Jamie the Bimbo Trophy Wife proves she’s much more when she bollocks her jealous boyfriend and tells his to go and be a good father, or else. There may have been real tears when he dedicates his Lifetime Achievement Award to his daughters too. But that’s just me: a sucker for a daddy moment.

I did wonder why the hell two men were in the running for a voiceover for a quadrilogy about Amazonian women though. It genuinely makes no sense to me from a marketing POV to use a male voice. And since they wanted Carol for this very reason in the first place, to ‘inspire’ the millions of girls who would flock to see it, I do not understand why they suddenly get excited about Sam Sotto, when he decides to compete for the job too. Just me?

“MMmmmmmmmmm bop doop be doop be doop doop la la la la…”

All in all I am enamoured with Lake Bell. I think her romance with Louis is adorable and she utters to him possibly the greatest line in movie history after a night singing Ice T at the karaoke: (to paraphrase) “Have you got any of those sleeping pills? It’s going to be really hard to fall asleep after you kiss me”.

AW YEAH.

My Rating:

4/5 – a nice film, with some funny bits. I want LB’s wardrobe please (5/5 for that).

And…

One day I’ll complete a podcast without a siren interrupting me, I swear. Special snaps to www.bensound.com for my cheeky intro music.

Also, if you want to know more about mumblecore movies, as mentioned in my podcast, this explains it better than I do.

Check out what Jillian thought here.