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Brian Lackey is determined to discover what happened during an amnesia blackout when he was eight years old, and then later woke with a bloody nose. He believes he was abducted by aliens, and N. McCormick, a fellow player on Brian's childhood baseball team, may be the key as to exactly what happened that night. As Brian searches for the truth and tries to track him down, Neil McCormick takes up hustling and moves to New York, in attempts to forget childhood memories that haunt him. Together, the two of them uncover the terrible truth of the scars they share. Written by
Original novelist Scott Heim wrote a draft screenplay which he then entered into the Sundance screenwriting lab. Gregg Araki was on the judging panel and the two became friends. Eventually it was mooted that Araki himself tackle the material. See more »
When Neil and Wendy are sitting in front of the drive-in theater listening to the speaker, Wendy's hair is in ponytails. After some snow, her hair style turns to a normal cut and the ponytails are gone. In the next shot they return. See more »
The summer I was 8 years old, five hours disappeared from my life. Five hours. Lost. Gone without a trace.
Last thing I remember I was sitting on the bench at my Little League game. It started to rain. What happened after that remains a pitch black void.
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In his new film Greg Araki uses a prudent ploy to snag and reel you in: having the visuals effusively speak and the screenplay divulge the least amount of information necessary to keep the story evolving. Words can only reveal so much, while Araki's images display an almost unbearable amount of visceral material, exploiting vibrant color, alluring texture, dark and light, the brooding and harrowing eyes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the handsome modesty of Brady Corbet.
The film resonates on a level of rawness unseen and unfelt since Cuesta's "L.I.E." or Solondz's "Storytelling." The film is jarringly penetrative and pervasive: the visuals in your mind play over repeatedly and the disconcerting but intellectually uplifting feeling "Mysterious Skin" infuses lies active long after you leave the theater. The film is not easy to digest. Seeing that there is pervasive sexual exposure between adults, as well as between adults and kids (though discreetly handled), this film will repulse many viewers. This film also had to be made.
Neil (Gordon-Levitt) and Brian's (Corbet) story starts in the early 1980s when they are only eight-years-old. Neil's little league baseball coach initiates a sexual relationship, of which (most likely to the consternation of several audience members) Neil actually recounts a rosy-colored remembrance: he enjoyed it. Brian that same year describes how his perpetual and mysterious string of blackouts and bloody noses began one rainy night after a baseball game.
The story moves forward to when Neil and Brian are at adolescence's conclusion. We discover that Neil has grown up to be both gay and a hustler, while asexual Brian's free time is taken up seeking the source of and resolution to his insoluble physical ailments. Brian soon deduces that aliens abducted him and meets a fellow abductee, Avalyn (Mary Lynn Rajskub), with whom he finds ephemeral solace.
Neil and Brian's story act in parallel, moving forward and backward over time, but never disjointedly. Neil eventually moves to New York, while his pining friend Eric (Jeff Licon) actually befriends Brian and an endearing friendship ensues. Neil's (unappeasable) pursuit of everlasting male love ends in the most unlikely of places: back home. Brian's pursuit of the truth leads him to, predictably, Neil. Araki exquisitely handles the ending (not divulged here) with the appropriate effusion of tendered emotion by the two main actors (warning: though the film's trailer subtlety gives away the finish).
I cannot give enough plaudits to the two male leads. A long way from "3rd Rock", Joe's sensuous flirtations and dynamic eyes mate well with Brady's tranquil, naive, yet profound, disposition. Brady's last scene with his character's father, as well as the climax, demonstrates his aptitude and assured longevity as an actor (beyond "Thunderbirds").
"Mysterious Skin" evidences many matches made-in-heaven: from film and director to material and actor to music and film. The film is entirely amoral, but not immoral. It is also a difficult film to watch. Many will cast it aside as tripe and trash (along with other morally relative films), but those fortunate enough to engage themselves in the movie's discussion will revel in it long after the credits' close.
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