Feels like it wants to be Mulholland Drive-ish, as young beautiful Elle Fanning arrives in the L.A. fashion business and experiences nightmarish visions before she’s eaten alive by her competitors. Dialogue delivered in weirdly silent rooms – I was expecting more keyboardy soundscapes, and maybe that would’ve helped get me on the wavelength of cool horror and deep mystery the movie seemed to think we were on together.
Elle is the Fanning from Super 8 and The Boxtrolls (older sister Dakota is the Fanning from Night Moves, War of the Worlds and Coraline). She arrives in town with her photographer friend, Karl Glusman from Love – another lethargic, sex-minded movie I had to struggle to keep from turning off. Elle meets makeup artist Jena Malone (the girl Donnie Darko likes) and a couple of evil models, gets work with famous photog Jack, and avoids her awful landlord (a miscast Keanu Reeves).
Neon Demon is an inert object, mostly comprised of color-saturated tableaux and walking-dead, anti-psychological “performances” … Much like Matthew Barney’s films, The Neon Demon delivers in chunks and slabs, but never seems cognizant of cinema as a time-based art.
A few years ago some critics raved that Paul Greengrass’s super-fractured Bourne movies were the exciting new thing, so hyperactively edited that they defied attempts to make sense of the action sequences. I wasn’t a huge fan, so I’m glad that this year critics are raving about Refn’s pared-down slow-motion action film instead.
J. Rosenbaum, listing things he does not like: “extreme violence as a function of specious and hypocritical morality (or, even worse, ‘sensitivity,’ as in Drive).” I haven’t figured out exactly what that means, but Katy disliked the extreme violence as well. For all the slow, cool aspects of the movie, its retro opening titles and theme songs (which I’ve been playing over and over), its straightforward genre story and simple themes of family love and heroism, there sure is some extreme bloody violence, including a thug’s head getting stomped to bits in an elevator, Christina Hendricks getting blasted with a shotgun, and Albert Brooks, in possibly his first death scene since the opening sequence of Twilight Zone: The Movie, getting a razor to the arm.
Ryan Gosling (unfortunately of Lars and the Real Girl) is perfect as the blank no-name Driver (stunt-man, getaway driver, track racer and mechanic – a vehicular all-star) who falls for his married neighbor. T. Stempel: “most of what she gets to do is smile sweetly. Carey Mulligan does that well, but it’s a criminal under-use of her talent.” When we meet her husband Standard, he’s a nice guy, seemingly reformed from prison, so the driver would have a moral dilemma if Standard was not quickly killed by gangsters (led by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman – great casting). Driver tries to help the girl escape the baddies, but the more baddies you hurt, kill or rip off, the more baddies you attract. So he finally has to kill just about everybody, ends up driving away by himself, mortally wounded, the soundtrack telling us that he has become a real hero. Oh also Bryan Cranston (Julia Roberts’ ex-husband in Larry Crowne) is great as the hard-luck mechanic who gave the driver his day job.