Jesse (Elle Fanning, Maleficent) is a beautiful 16-year-old girl from Georgia with no family and big dreams of making it as a model in Hollywood. She is immediately signed by high-powered modeling agent Roberta Hoffman (Christina Hendricks, Mad Men) and told she'll be a superstar, but falls in with an odd assortment of industry people including make-up artist Ruby (Jena Malone, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) and much more seasoned fellow models Gigi (Bella Heathcote, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and Sarah (Abbey Lee), both of whom seem to despise and envy Jesse's sweet and lovely innocence.
Then there's the men in Jesse's life. She's met a nice guy named Dean (Karl Glusman), but he wants to move a little faster than she does. Then there's the creepy famous photographer Jack (Desmond Harrington, Dexter) who spots her at a party and wants to do a private shoot. Ahem. Last, but not least, is Hank (Keanu Reeves), the manager of the sleazy motel where Jesse is staying, a man with a bad attitude and possibly much worse beneath his oily veneer.
As Jesse begins to rise in stardom, it starts to affect her and she enjoys the power that comes with the adoration and envy of those around her. Dean doesn't fit in with her life anymore, but "pals" Ruby, Gigi and Sarah aren't really a good fit either. Ruby wants to sleep with her, while Gigi and Sarah do whatever they can to belittle her. It's a dog-eat-dog world, and although Jesse is tasting fame at the moment, can it last or will the modeling world chew her up and spit her out?
While the acting is decent in The Neon Demon, it felt like the love child of an art house flick and an episode of The Hills, with a hefty dose of Tron-esque visuals thrown in and set to 80's synth music. Oh, and it really reminded me of Dieter's Dream from the old Sprockets skit from Saturday Night Live. Google it. None of this is meant to be a compliment.
I get that Nicolas Winding Refn likes to shock people and there were some interesting visuals in the film, but mostly it was just a lot of vapid people staring at one another with very little dialogue while weird stuff happens. Like super weird stuff like wildcats tearing up hotel rooms, fingers coming out of wallpaper a la American Horror Story and then there's the necrophilia. Yeah, that's ok. I'll pass if this is considered art. Even the makeup was pretty horrible. At times, these girls looked like the Urban Decay display threw up on their face, and this is coming from a chick that digs her glittery eye shadow, mind you.
There are three special features like a behind the scenes featurette on the film, one on the soundtrack, and the audio commentary with Refn and Fanning, but none of these really helped me to like the film any more than viewing it did. I wanted to see it because it looked like a different kind of thriller and I enjoyed Drive, so I thought I might like it. It just felt like a neon waste of time.