Trite but visceral but gorgeous, director and co-writer Nichalas Winding Refn’s story of a teenage model (a pitch-perfect Elle Fanning) who discovers the dangerous power of her own beauty is the sort of expertly crafted depiction of youth’s instinctual narcissism you might like to show a newly self-conscious adolescent — except for the extremely nasty bits. The frustrating part is that the nasty bits, which are shocking enough to seem gratuitous at first, prove to be nearly essential in hindsight. Without them, the louche lurching from highbrow to lowbrow would subside somewhere in the middle, and you’d be left with an oddly arty cautionary tale. As it is, you have another strong outing from a strong director: blank-faced models performing entire arias with their eyes, a purple dress blending into the sunset sky over Los Angeles, and a coherent — if occasionally fantastical and/or horrific — reality. Yes, Refn indulges his camera to the point of luxuriating, but then, he has reason to believe you’ll stay with him.
Length: 1 hour, 57 minutes