Elle Fanning in The Neon Demon.

After the misstep that was Only God Forgives, director Nicolas Winding Refn gets things back on track with The Neon Demon, perhaps the nastiest film ever made about the modeling industry.

Jesse (Elle Fanning) moves to Los Angeles to become a model. She’s underage, naïve and lost, but finds a helping hand in Ruby (Jena Malone), a makeup artist who knows what it’s like to be the new girl in town.

As her career begins to take off, Jesse begins to gain confidence—to a fault—and a couple of other models (Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee) develop sinister intentions along with their envy of Jesse’s spectacular looks.

Refn memorizes yet again (his Drive remains one of the best films of this decade), combining stunning visuals and an excellent soundtrack to go with the outstanding performances from Fanning, Malone, Heathcote and Lee.

Keanu Reeves has a small but memorable role as a sleazy hotel manager, while Alessandro Nivola is most memorable as a fashion designer who must have Jesse for his show.

Refn has produced a fine piece of dark, cynical satire here—with elements of horror mixed in for good measure. This establishes Fanning as one of this generation’s best actresses. Hers is one of the year’s best performances so far.

The Neon Demon is now playing at the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342); and the Century Theatres at The River (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-836-1940).