The Neon Demon: part 2
Y'all really gonna make me continue this? Ugh, fine. Here's the second (and thankfully final) part of my review of The Neon Demon. This will make no sense unless you've read the previous entry, and probably not even then.
***MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD***
When last we left our lovely heroine Jesse, she had just passed out after receiving flowers. Dean decides to go pay Keanu Reeves a visit and pay for the damages done by the mountain lion that inexplicably found its way into Jesse's room. Keanu continues to be a skeeze and tells Dean that there's a 13-year-old runaway in the room next to Jesse if he's interested. "Real Lolita shit," Keanu says charmingly. Dean is repulsed and peaces out.
Later on, Jesse and Gigi are getting ready for a runway show. Oddly enough, although Gigi is wearing some real dramatic clown-ass makeup in her reflection, her actual face is bare. Whoa dudes! Is it a clumsy art school metaphor for things not being what they seem? Of course it is because that's how this movie DO, yo. Gigi tells Jesse about all the work she's had done and then adds "Anything worth having hurts a little", which: groan. During the show, we see that inverted Triforce logo again and Jesse kisses her reflection (BETA KITTEN PROGRAMMING) and yawn.
After the show, Jesse gets dressed up in a gold halter top and black "Olivia Newton-John at the end of Grease" pants and she looks really fucking hot. (I checked IMDB to make sure Elle Fanning was at least 18 before writing that.) She and Dean go to a bar and run into the designer, Gigi, and Sarah. Dean introduces himself and the designer snipes, "Your name's BEAN?" Oh, the comedy!!! The designer starts blathering on about how Jesse is so gorgeous because she hasn't had anything done and adds "Beauty isn't everything, it's the ONLY thing", which: Groan 2, Electric Boogaloo. Jesse starts acting like a bitch and Dean doesn't like it, which of course is completely fair.
Back at the motel, Jesse is asleep and Keanu lets himself into her room and starts sliding a knife into her mouth and down her throat. She wakes up, of course, and he says "Wider". This scene is really fucking gross and uncomfortable and reminded me of the chicken scene in Killer Joe. (Side note: I saw Killer Joe in the theater because the movie I wanted to see was cancelled and there was a guy behind me that absolutely CHORTLED during that scene, and I wanted to fucking haul off and smack him.) It turns out to be a dream, which is good and makes it less icky but honestly, I was squirming. Things continue to be cringeworthy when Jesse hears someone next door (presumably the 13-year-old runaway) being sexually assaulted. She calls Ruby instead of, you know, the POLICE, and Ruby tells her to come over, which she does.
Ruby is housesitting, and after Jesse takes a shower, Ruby starts brushing out Jesse's hair in my grandmother's room circa 1983. Ruby starts getting really excited and tries to have sex with Jesse despite Jesse's protestations, saying "I want to be your first" and instantly losing her place as the most sympathetic character in the movie. Jesse rebuffs her and Ruby isn't happy about it. She draws a big face with X'ed out eyes on the mirror. FORESHADOWING ALERT. Also, she is a terrible housesitter and, as it turns out, morgue assistant because...
...she goes to her second job at the morgue and is putting makeup on a female corpse when she begins thinking about Jesse. She closes the door and strips off her gloves and now we see why the rating advisory at the beginning mentioned a "scene of aberrant sexuality". Yes, Ruby begins fondling the corpse's breasts and Y-incision (vomit) and then reaches between her/its legs and rubbing vigorously. I couldn't tell if she was rubbing herself or the corpse and frankly that is the one small kindness this movie did for me.
Tangent time! I once had a very long and heated argument with a dorm mate over whether necrophilia was truly a victimless crime. (This argument was precipitated by a viewing of Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Animation Festival, which had a really horrifying cartoon about necrophilia that upset me so much I was in tears and had to go to the lobby until it was over.) His argument was that necrophilia is a victimless crime, and I said although the corpse couldn't really be called a victim, the deceased's friends/family could be considered victims because who the hell would want to learn that their loved one had been used like that? This was what college life consisted of pre-internet.
Okay, so Ruby gets back from a hard night of corpse friggin' and Jesse has put bright pink makeup and glitter all around her eyes. All I could think about was how much that glitter would hurt if it got in her eyes and I wanted to offer her a bottle of Visine. She's standing on the diving board of the empty pool talking about how hot she is and how "women would kill to look like this". First of all, arrogant much, and second, FORESHADOWING. "[Women] are praying they'll look like a second-rate version of me" and I was like stay grounded, sis.
Well, Jesse never gets a chance to redeem herself in the viewer's eyes, because when she goes back inside, she's attacked by Sarah and Gigi. They chase her around and when they corner her back outside, they push her into the pool where she appears to bleed out. Then we see a blood-covered Ruby in a tub, watching Sarah and Gigi shower for what seems like twenty minutes. It's like an Andrew Blake porno but with WAY more blood.
Now Ruby is outside wearing nothing but really ugly pants. She's watering the plants and takes a moment to wash Jesse's blood off the concrete. Then she's lying in a grave she's dug in the garden. I will not be giving her a good review on Angie's List. Then she's back inside and blood is gushing out from between her legs because I don't know why.
But what of Sarah and Gigi? Well, they're at a seaside mansion, where Gigi is getting prepped for a photo shoot next to another model who asks Sarah about her competition. Sarah says "I ate her" and the other model laughs and says "Ew". Oh, if you only knew, unnamed model! Quinn from Dexter decides he wants Gigi to be in the shoot instead and sends Anonymodel away. Sarah and Gigi are standing outside and Gigi starts looking all sweaty and uncomfortable. She runs away and goes inside, where the wallpaper has swastikas on it (?!?!?), and she tries desperately to puke. Sarah comes inside and watches dispassionately as Gigi cries and then, ugh, barfs up one of Jesse's (just assuming here) eyeballs. Gigi screams "I need to get her out of me!" and stabs herself in the stomach as Sarah just stands there doing everything but examining her fingernails and yawning. Sarah grabs the eyeball out of the puke pile and eats it, because of course she does, and then she goes back outside to become America's Next Top Really Fucked Up Model.
At this point, the screen changed to a shot of dry cracked ground and I thought "goddammit, I thought this fucking movie was over" but thank Christ, it was! The credits started rolling and Sia started singing and FINALLY, my 2-hour nightmare was over.
What did I like about TND? Well, it was visually striking and the score was quite good, but other than that, it fucking blew. As my friend Ruth said, it was Showgirls without the laughs. The acting was dreadful, the writing was clunky, and what was the point, anyway? That the modeling industry eats up young women and spits them out? Because if THAT was the point, then goddamn, it was about as subtle as, well, neon. (Speaking of which, why the hell was it called The Neon Demon anyway?)
Look, if you want a movie with a similar feel/aesthetic, here are some much better ones you could watch: Suspiria. Mulholland Drive. Starry Eyes. Entrance. Black Swan. The Hunger. But take my advice and give TND a hard pass, as everyone involved in this flick should have.
And Sarah? Next time, try the steak sandwich instead.