There’s a degree of irony, methinks, in Demi Moore starring in The Substance, a riveting David Cronenberg-ian body-horror flick about the fear of aging among older women and the application of artificial enhancements, when it’s been apparent for some time that Moore herself has been augmenting nature with the usual costly touch-ups.

Not that I have the slightest problem with this. Born during the Kennedy administration, Moore looks great (and I’m saying this as a veteran of three Prague procedures so don’t tell me) but c’mon…her character, an aging actress and workout-show host named Elizabeth Sparkle who injects herself with a radical youth drug, isn’t that far from self-portraiture.

Sparkle’s radical de-aging situation conveys a certain parallel or reach-back to Oscar Wilde‘s Dorian Gray, of course, but I’m also thinking of poor, anguished Norma Desmond. Imagine her post-Sunset Boulevard, non-mental-asylum life with the benefit of today’s plastic surgery techniques. She might not have wound up shooting William Holden‘s Joe Gillis, and he might have become Betty Schaefer‘s permanent writing partner!

(Who speculated that Gillis might have somehow been the father of American Gigolo‘s Julian Kaye? Was it David Thomson?)

Directed by Coralie Fargeat, The Substance is a whipsmart body-horror flick. Urgency, punch and pizazz feeds into this synthetic-feeling, slickly assembled piece of feminist (i.e., male-asshole-hating) agitprop, and obviously with a bullhorn message, to wit: Women, throw off the yoke of male assholery and their imposition of bullshit beauty standards and live for yourselves.

There are only two problems with The Substance.

One, it’s not just about Moore’s Sparkle de-aging herself after being fired from her TV show (i.e, too old) but about being replaced by Margaret Qualley‘s Sue, a 20something who emerges, Cronenberg-style, from within Elizabeth. Elizabeth and Sue have some kind of alternating arrangement in which they take turns strutting around in the big, bad city. And I couldn’t understand the rules…how and why of it all.

And two, the film goes on too long. It wore me down and I started glancing at my watch repeatedly….c’mon, wrap this up already.

The New Yorker‘s Justin Chang is calling The Substance “a shoo-in for the Palme d’Or.” Sure thing. If they gave to Titane, why not?