Review By: Staff
Mysterious Skin is a brave journey into the deep depths of human
sexuality and small town ideals. Gregg Araki (Splendor) doesn’t break
any new ground in this searing and touching story of two young men growing up in a stiflingly small town of Hutchinson, Kansas. He does, however, push buttons and ask questions in his most consistent and thoughtful film yet. Joseph Gordon Levitt and Brady Corbet play the two adolescents who are at a crossroads in their lives. They must choose to either leave this small town and all they have come to know, or continue living their so-called meaningless lives. The movie flip-flops between the two boys and their experiences before ultimately choosing their destiny.
Neil McCormick (Gordon Levitt) is the ultimate beautiful outsider. He
throws his cares to the wind when thinking about his future, and gets paid to have sex with usually older men who drive their beatup cars around the park where Neil frequents. He has no goals or ambition, just a frustration with where he lives and what his life has become. With a loving but promiscuous mother (Elisabeth Shue in a role that finally allows her to show some emotion), Neil is wise beyond his years and curious about his developing sexuality, having been molested / “loved”by his Little League baseball coach (Bill Sage) at a very early age.
Although Neil’s promiscuity is blamed essentially on his previous experiences with his baseball coach, it doesn’t seem to detract him from wanting someone, anyone to love him. Now, ten years later, Neil is a teenage hustler, who is nonchalant about the dangerous path his life is taking.
“The summer I was eight years old, five hours disappeared from my life. Five hours, lost, gone without a trace…” These are the words of Brian Lackey (Corbet), a troubled 18 year-old; Plagued by nightmares, Brian believes that he may have been the victim of an alien abduction. He doesn’t just think he was, but he actually believes with every fiber in his body that he's part of some experiment. His mother, of course, blames it on a “phase”, while he watches all those mindless paranormal shows in search of others who believe they too were abducted. He finds Avalyn (Mary Lynn Rajskub) who feels she too was abducted for unknown reasons. Rajskub, who always is flawless in her
supporting turns, oozes creepiness from the start, and has ulterior motives for Brian.
Based on the acclaimed novel by Scott Heim, “Mysterious Skin” explores the needing to escape one’s own reality. Both of the main characters are searching for something more, and what they don’t realize is they need to create their own reality. They both have to have the drive and ambition to get out, instead of dreaming about it from afar. They also
both put the blame on outside factors, when they
Both of the lead actors turn in amazing dramatic performances, especially Levitt who breaks free of shackles that 3rd Rock from the Sun branded to his ankles. He mixes both tragedy and humor effortlessly while somehow maintaining the dignity of the character. I am especially impressed by Araki whose previous films were a mismash of
themes and scenes, but this picture actually is quite coherent and topical. He displays a keen notion and pays particular detail to human sexuality and thinking outside of the box. Mysterious Skin is a quality film with several interesting characters who are trying to explore more than why their boyfriend hasn’t called them back.
Movie Grade: A-