The Neon Demon

Rated 2.0

A teenager newly arrived in LA (Elle Fanning) rises meteorically in the world of fashion modeling while more seasoned beauties eye her with resentment. Writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn presents a stylish, shallow movie about a stylish, shallow profession, staging his heroine’s progress from naif to ice queen in lurid tableaux of languid strobes, cold, razor-sharp edges and slo-mo cascades of glitter. For a while, Fanning’s screen presence draws us in; we almost believe this Cinderella-in-reverse story. But Refn’s urge to shock drives him to push things too far, and just as the story peaks the whole movie goes stark raving nuts in a hallucinatory jumble without even the nightmare logic of surrealism. The movie’s style deserts it, and we realize that the substance was never there in the first place.