Jesse (Elle Fanning;Trumbo) is a striking 16 year-old from Georgia. While it is never completely established, she could be a runaway who came to California to "make it big". However, unlike most girls, she immediately garners attention since she is unique and has that intangible quality others are drawn to like moths to a flame.
When Jesse takes jobs away from other models, she tends to make enemies. She also befriends, then spurns, the amorous attentions of Ruby (Jena Malone; Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice) a makeup artist in the industry. Ruby, who doesn't like the rejection, teams up with some of her model friends to ultimately do away with Jesse.
Fanning is perfectly cast as the somewhat naïve, southern teenager who is almost, but not quite, unaware of her striking beauty. She portrays an innocence that is necessary, but, at times, she displays a certain arrogance that is fitting of a gorgeous young woman. Malone blends the right amount of sincerity with a creepy, predatory vibe that makes Ruby stand out among a sea of whiny, vindictive models. Additionally, a cameo by Keanu Reeves (The Matrix) is somewhat underused in my opinion.
Since music plays such an integral part of this film, it is a good thing the Blu-ray has DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio. The electronic, 80's/sci-fi feeling compositions help set the scene on a number of occasions, but also distract slightly for the more sinister tones found on most "horror" soundtracks. However, the music chosen does lend itself to the overall feel Winding Refn's was trying to achieve with this out of the box story. With the quality of the Blu-ray, those songs can be heard in the full range from deep bass to higher frequencies.
The video is high definition 1080p resolution with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. This makes for excellent quality with vibrant colors set along the full spectrum. The blacks are deep and true and the bright sun is magnificent and powerful. The unique makeup choices for the photo shoots are also exceptional.
The disc only offers a few extras, including commentary by Elle Fanning and Refn, as well as two short featurettes: "Behind the Soundtrack of The Neon Demon (05:08)" and "About The Neon Demon (01:12)." None of the extras offer great insight into the thought process behind this unusual film, but since they aren't all that long you might as well watch them.
While we all know modeling and high fashion are hard industries with lots of backstabbing and manipulation, Refn's take is more surreal and unnerving. At times, it makes the audience pity all those in the sordid game, but, at other times, it just makes you wonder what the director is thinking. Mass audiences will no doubt hate the movie and I must admit I had moments in which I was befuddled and annoyed. While the commentary is dually noted, the delivery was a little too far off the mainstream for me to truly enjoy it.