Nicolas Winding Rein returns with another artistic/pretentious spectacle based in the world of modelling in LA starring Elle Fanning as a wide-eyed sixteen-year-old Jesse breaking into the biz.
Fanning is perfect as the embodiment of innocence and does some great ‘face-acting’ both expressive and dispassionate in various (many, many, many) close ups. Jenna Malone is fantastic as Ruby the make up artist that befriends Jesse and introduces her to a couple of her model friends. As Jesse becomes more confident and successful, she becomes more arrogant, alienating a prospective boyfriend which, while perfectly fine as a comment on the toxic nature of obsession with appearance, felt a little clichéd which jarred with the tone.
This film is beautiful and horrible, juxtaposing and intertwining the two in both plot and the visuals, which were particularly great – lots of attractive people and interesting make up and outfits and sets. But it does feel pretentious, you can’t really escape that. It took me a while to get used to the self-consciously slow and awkward dialogue but luckily there wasn’t a hell of a lot of it. And although I thought there were great metaphors and comments on beauty and sexualisation, these could have been explored more successfully by condensing some of the weirder episodes into more manageable scenes. Like the party scene at the beginning where the camera lingers on the faces of each of the characters several times staring at one another in slo-mo and it just goes on a bit too long.
That said there are moments of brilliance. The visuals are stunning and the acting is great – Malone has some particularly intense parts that she manages to pull off really well. The music, too, was great, but I wouldn’t have expected anything less after the brilliant Drive soundtrack.
Overall, the more I think about it, the more I really like it. It’s not the kind of film that you enjoy at the time, really, but it’s definitely made an impression, and I’ll definitely buy the DVD for a second watch. I’d recommend it to anyone who isn’t squeamish and has a strong stomach, and who doesn’t mind a little pretentiousness. Taken with a pinch of salt and not too seriously, this is an interesting and stunning piece of film.