You know what's better than Nicolas Winding Refn's latest film? The trailer. Anyone who argues that The Neon Demon is a masterpiece—or worthless trash—is not to be trusted.
Related: Refn's Films, Ranked.
Refn weds the stylishness of Drive with the brutality of his earlier, better movies, yielding mixed and often frustrating results. In Refn's latest male fantasy flick, Elle Fanning spins her beatific turn as Maleficent's Aurora into a starring role as the fatal beauty Jesse. The 16-year-old fashion model's innocence is tested while she rapidly scales the peaks of success. Of course everyone wants a piece of her, including morgue make-up artist Jena Malone, an eternally angry hotel proprietor played by Keanu Reeves, and a mountain lion. Los Angeles itself becomes one incarnation of the titular monstrosity, trying to devour the nature it cannot emulate.
What does work are the many slow motion beauty sequences, set to scintillating synthesizer soundtracks. Unfortunately the end credits fall prey to a Diplo song that already dates this film. Patient fans of eye candy may get their money's worth from Neon Demon, but those craving a good story will be better served with another viewing of Black Swan.
Critic's Grade: C