Mysterious Skin
This film would have me ever-vigilant about enrolling my kids in Little League.

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Actor (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
Adapted Screenplay (Gregg Araki-screenplay, Scott Heim-novel)

Theatrical Release Date: 05/06/2005
Directed by: Gregg Araki
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michelle Trachtenberg, Brady Corbet, Elisabeth Shue

Another movie review! Summer brings out the voyeur in me. Well, “Mysterious Skin” is based on a book by Scott Heim but written for the screen and directed by Gregg Araki (“Doom Generation”, “Nowhere”).

In a nutshell, before watching this film, if you haven’t seen any other Araki movies, you need to know that he’s got a bit of a skewed perspective on the world. And for this one, there are more than a few scenes revolving around Neil’s (Gordon-Levitt) chosen profession of a male prostitute, due to child abuse at the hands of a little league coach.

So if you are particularly uncomfortable watching guys go down on one another and prefer to miss some man-on-man rape, then this isn’t for you. There are no full frontal shots, but that may be worse considering you are left to imagine some of the events that unfold as the camera stays just off the “action”.

The basic story is that Neil has become sexually hyper-active due to his abuse and Brian (Corbet) has shut down completely due to an encounter that somehow involves Neil from 10 years previous, during which time Brian figures he had been abducted by aliens though he has no clear memory of where his “lost time” came from. So Brian goes on a quest to find Neil and see if he knows what happened to him 10 years ago.

Yes, this film is out there. At times, Araki creates such a surreal and unrealistic world you can’t help but laugh at the absurdity. He did this in his other films as well, creating a super-exaggerated world, pursing the effects of extreme emotional distress/breakdown/shutdown.

However, with a real story behind this because of the novel it was adapted from, this film is one of the best films I’ve seen that portrays the terror and consequences of child abuse. I can’t really empathize, but this film doesn’t pull punches.

Gordon-Levitt’s performance is nothing short of amazing, his choices were fearless and so far, the best performance I’ve seen this year. But this being a small indie movie, released in June by a director known for absurdity, he’ll never get the credit he deserves for this. Corbet is also very strong and I hope this film gets remembered when the Spirit Awards (Independent Film) take place at the end of the year.

While it’s VERY hard to recommend this movie, if you are looking for a challenge and aren’t going to be offended/put off by the subject material I liked this very much due to the strength of the performances and I like the absurd world that Araki creates, it puts me in the right mood. (wrong for most people).

I don’t know if anyone could really enjoy this film, but I give it a 4 out of 5 – for its brutal honesty and the raw, break-out performance of Gordon-Levitt.