It is not hard to see that The Neon Demon, the latest film from Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, has touched a nerve. The film's debut at the Cannes Film Festival received a choir of boos when it ended. The New York Times described it as "ridiculous and puerile." Movie critic James Berardinelli declared the movie to be the worst of 2016 and warned that those who sing this film's praises are not to be trusted.

Well, if Berardinelli is to be believed, you may not want to trust me. (I did take a first date to this film, which was a decision so unbelievably idiotic that I can understand if your trust has been lost. And in case you were wondering, no further dates have been made.)

Refn's film is many things -- pretentious, self-indulgent, impressed by itself -- but it is also not bad. In fact, if you have patience for the type of films Refn specializes in, then you will likely think this movie is quite good, maybe even great.

The Neon Demon is, on its face, a rather simple story. Sixteen-year-old protagonist Jesse, played with dazzling maturity by Elle Fanning, comes to Los Angeles with doe eyes and dreams of becoming a model. "I can't sing, I can't dance, I can't write," she admits to a gentleman caller named Dean, before acknowledging her own beauty. "I can make money off pretty."

As Jesse begins to find success, based largely on her "it" factor and virginal innocence, reality begins to set it and it circles fast. Her modeling competition -- played with menace by Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee -- begins to see their own expiration dates rapidly approaching. "Who wants sour milk when you can have fresh meat?" one of them ponders out loud.

What ensues is a lurching thriller that plays out in some sort of surreal underworld between Shakespeare and Lynch. The film is never particularly subtle about its message regarding the superficiality of society and people in general, but the phantasmagoric ride Refn takes the audience on to get to the conclusion is where the film thrives.

It seems that most critics have overlooked that Refn does not make movies like anyone else. The Neon Demon has been jilted for its perceived lack of character depth and wooden performances, which is a criticism that dates back to 2011's surprise hit Drive and 2013's wrongfully maligned Only God Forgives (which is currently recovering in the court of public opinion via reflective reconsideration).

But Refn is not making his films like this on accident or because of any lack of skill in writing characters. He co-wrote 2008's Bronson, which featured extraordinary monologues from Tom Hardy's remarkable turn as the titular character, and his prior works also proved he can write rather well. But with his more recent films, Refn has taken to staging slightly mobile tableaux. The shots frame scenes like paintings, in which looks and colors and composition tell more of the story than the dialogue. The lines spoken by characters are meant to sound like a morality play come to celluloid. This is certainly not a style of filmmaking for everyone, but it is not to be dismissed as "incorrect" or poor.

The film, which was co-written by Refn with Polly Stenham and Marys Law, and was shot by Natasha Baier, has also taken heat for the perception that it indulges in the type of misogyny the film aspires to comment upon. Men leer upon women and do far worse in this film, but no consequences befall them. Women, on the other hand, engage in the same types of behavior with equally dubious motivation and are largely met with swift justice. Even more contentious moments occur within the confines of the film's conclusion that I will not spoil here.

However, I would argue (much to the chagrin of some, I'm sure), that Refn succeeded in making his point through the methods mentioned above. In our society, men routinely get away with a litany of horrid acts perpetrated against women (the "real Lolita shit" line uttered by Keanu Reeve's lecherous motel owner in this film being among the most tangible examples provided in the film's otherworldly cornucopia of patriarchal expression).

Meanwhile, society has engrained women with a need to be seen as beautiful and mocks them when they aren't. Heathcoate's plastic surgery obsessed Gigi and Lee's widely ignored Sarah are on a war path against Jesse, and that path is carved by the indifference of men such as Alessandro Nivola's flamboyant fashion designer and Desmond Harrington's disconcerting fashion photographer.

This is surely not an argument that will be widely shared, but the deliberateness of Refn's filmmaking would seem to lend a hand to the belief that he is more calculated than careless in his portrayal of women.

The film's moral scope is large, as the writers' collective ire is aimed not just at the treatment of women, but all of humanity. Karl Glusman's Dean, perhaps the film's only halfway decent person, speaks up against the superficiality and self-indulgent ego stroking of Jesse's peers. But Nivola quickly puts him down by pointing out that beauty is the most valuable currency amongst people. He mocks the notion that Dean cares about what is on the inside. Would he have even cared to get to know Jesse's personality if she weren't so beautiful? The scene made moviegoers in my cinema cringe, largely because I suspect they knew the sentiment was true. Everyone wants to be like Dean, but most think like Nivola.

It is Nivola's character that insists, "Beauty isn't everything. It's the only thing." This kind of moral certitude is at the core of Refn's sweeping stroke style of storytelling. It can be simple if one embraces it, but the undeniable thrill is in the ride. That is where the film succeeds. It is a beautifully shot, masterfully scored piece of art. As reviews have shown, it is not for everyone. But make no mistake, Refn has made a wholly unique and fascinatingly beautiful film that will not simply disappear. It is the type of movie that demands thought, and should be pondered over and considered as we assess beauty's place in the modern world. The film tries to argue that The Neon Demon lurks behind us all. So how do we fix that?