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Michelle TrachtenbergMichelle Trachtenberg - "Mysterious Skin" Movie - Abc.net.au Review
By Margaret Pomeranz
Wednesday 17 August 2005, by Webmaster
Two boys who are on the cusp of adulthood in Kansas, Brian is a shy introvert, obsessed by his own possible UFO abduction, while Neil is a cruel and icy beauty who sexualises his every encounter. As each of them follows their own very different journey, they seek to come to terms with the incident that has scarred their current lives and to their surprise unites them.
Margaret: four-and-a-half stars
David: four-and-a-half stars
Gregg Araki’s MYSTERIOUS SKIN has been much talked about lately because of attempts to have it banned because it depicts and describes child sexual abuse. As you know the R-rating for the film was confirmed by the Review Board a couple of weeks ago.
What makes it a film worth defending? It’s the story of two young boys at three points in their lives. When they are 8 Neil, (Chase Ellison) is seduced by the baseball coach, (Bill Sage), while Brian, (George Webster) experiences a bleeding nose after a 5 hour blackout in his life. He comes to think he was abducted by aliens.
At Eighteeen Neil, now played by (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is beginning a career as a prostitute with friends Wendy, (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Eric, (Jeff Licon) anxiously standing on the sidelines while Brian Brady Corbet seeks out Avalyn, (Mary Lynn Rajsku) who also believes she was abducted by aliens.
The two very different stories of these boys intersect in a way that is ultimately terribly moving. Even its attackers acknowledge that the film is a ‘searing indictment of child sexual abuse’.
It is Araki’s most mature film to date. He’s working for the first time not from his own writing but from Scott Heim’s novel which was published in the mid 90’s to great acclaim.
And while Araki doesn’t shy away from confronting audiences with what happened he’s filmed it so cleverly that nothing is explicit apart from a conversation later in the film.
The performances are all very convincing. The film looks fabulous. It does cover distressing terrain. But I do believe the film has the potential to inform, heal and possibly transform.