Indie Gems: Mysterious Skin
Mysterious skin was a hard film to make, a hard book to adapt, and a hard role for any actor to take on. When director Gregg Araki started on this film he knew he was going to have to film this very carefully, as the subject matter could be easily exploited. He cast the perfect leading man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who was fearless in this role. The way the film was shot was so careful, yet so clever. The film ended up with a harsh (and questionable) NC17 rating for subject matter, rather than the content itself.
The film follows two different boys, growing up in the same small town in Kansas. Though they only met once as boys on their little league team, it's their past that binds them. It's a total character study of how two people can react differently to such a drastic situation. Neil (Joseph Gordon Levitt) grows up to be a hustler, cocky and independent and without a care in the world. Brian (Brady Corbet) grows up a shy, fidgety young man who believes he was abducted by aliens when he was a child. We know at the beginning of the film that this is not the case. We watch these boys live their lives, and try to reconnect to each other. Brian is sure that Neil somehow has the answers to his past. He suffers blackouts, has nightmares, has extreme paranoia, and some how he knows that Neil is connected to him.
The touchy subject matter of the film is child abuse. Howeber Araki chooses not to show it, instead we get glimpses. We know what is going on, but they never go as far as to show it. Araki purposely shot the scenes this way so that the young actors wouldn't fully understand what their characters were going though. He made up a totally different story to them and had them act it out. That's good directing in my eyes, he chooses to protect them. Some people will look at this film and say "Oh I can't believe they let their kids be in this film". That's why. He kept them safe, and didn't tell them what was going on. Let them figure it out when their older and can understand the movie for the work of art that it is.
Araki puts a lot of beautiful shots in the film. The snow falling on Neil and his friend Wendy (Michelle Trachtenberg) as they stand at an empty drive-in theater. The Christmas carolers singing Silent Night as Neil and Brian realize what they had been through. Even a shot as simple as falling fruit loops on the face of a smiling child is done beautifully. Some scenes are hard to watch, but these little gems make up for the rest. If you want a good, character driven drama. This is one for you. Not to mention it's Gordon Levitt, Corbert and Trachtenberg's best work to date. If you are a fan, it's a definite must see for them.
Recommended: Yes. 4/5 stars (again, only for Mature Audiences)
Memorable Quote: "A movie of our lives, and it would end with us just standing right here" - Wendy Peterson (Michelle Trachenberg