In Review: Teen Spirit

Somebody said we got a new pop saga on the screen. Does it love us better than the slew of others can? Turns out that actor and now first time director Max Minghella has made one by the numbers that follows every beat we’re familiar with and almost nothing more. Teen Spirit follows a very familiar pop ascension narrative trajectory to acceptably involving results, relying largely on its ultrahip playlist of pop covers. However, the real draw is its headliner Elle Fanning, giving us a new facet to her reign as cinematic teen ingenue.

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In Review!: “20th Century Women”

Like Beginners was inspired by Mike Mills’s relationship with his elderly gay father, his new film 20th Century Women focuses his relationship on his mother. While Beginners similarly played with editing to embody the intangibility of memory, Women exists in a beautiful haze of shapshots threaded together like we might remember a period that defined us: linear but maybe not, burdened by the perspective of the future, perhaps even a little better (or worse) than it actually was. The film is a memory play of sorts but moreso interested in the unknowability of any one person in your life, no matter how they reveal or define themselves. With omniscient details of the inner lives of the ensemble delivered in shared voice over, Mike Mills makes a film that is deeply personal for all of its inhabitants, a work about growing up from a filmmaker who has done just that with his third film.

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In Review!: “The Neon Demon”

Nicolas Winding Refn has traded in the usual machismo for his newest effort The Neon Demon but that doesn’t mean he’s also giving up his penchant for violence. Set in the Los Angeles modeling world, Refn doubles down on the seedy to explore how the industry turns women to cannibalize eachother (in this example, literally). The film’s success is somewhat measured without the smarts to make its plentiful interesting ideas really resonate. Like many provocations, this one may be more interesting for the discussion it creates outside of the film than in its own confines.

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Elle Fanning is Jesse, a new talent lying about her age and finding absurdly instant success. Demon relies heavily on the actress’s always natural charisma to embody a purity that it ultimately deceives once she becomes like her fembot competitors (Abbey Lee and Bella Heathcote, both appropriately vacant and pitch black hilarious). Jenna Malone’s performance as the makeup artist growing increasingly attached to Jesse is the highlight – not just game for the film’s most exposing and shocking elements, but deftly handling huge and bizarre character shifts with complete ease.

The film is entrancing and evocative, like an evil younger cousin to A Bigger Splash and its shared themes of glamour deceiving a questionable moral compass underneath. But the film can only pull you in so deep before its passive elusiveness pushes you away towards the film’s conclusion.

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Trailer Drop: Current Obsession “The Neon Demon”

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Unsurprisingly among the recently announced Cannes Film Festival competition lineup (they love their returning auteurs), is Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon. Originally conceived for his Drive damsel Carey Mulligan, the film stars Elle Fanning as a young girl breaking into the modeling industry. The whole thing looks very Suspiria meets perfume ad – and I mean that as a compliment.

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