Thursday, July 07, 2005

Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki)

Twenty minutes into Gregg Araki's new movie, and I'm thinking he might have made himself a masterpiece. Then the extended flashback sequence ends, and the film dies a slow, conventional death. The problems are many: Michelle Trachtenberg suffers from either A) terrible acting or B) a poorly written character (answer: C), indie-film cliches crowd out the good stuff (ex: the male prostitute character's one last trick goes bad, also known as the Miramax version of the cop getting shot one day before retirement), and the story loses momentum halfway through and all we're left with is inevitability and a "revelatory" ending that reveals nothing we hadn't already figured out. It's easy to be tricked into thinking the movie's any good while watching it, mostly from the early scenes' powerful confidence and the strength of the non-Trachtenberg performances (especially Elisabeth Shue and Brady Corbet), but it eventually leads to so what. Araki is being praised by almost every mainstream American critic for maturing, but I'll take the ridiculous-to-sublime momentum of his Nowhere over the sublime-to-mundane Mysterious Skin any day of the week, even Monday. A mature Araki actually includes scenes like this in his new movie (dialogue half-remembered and paraphrased, I'll do my best):

(Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michelle Trachtenberg, having a heart-to-heart about his male prostitution next to the speakers at an empty drive-in movie theater.)
MT: I wish we were watching a movie about our lives on this screen. It would show everything that happened to us and end with us right here, staring at the screen.
JG-L (disinterested): Unh.
MT (cradling the speaker next to her, then holding it up to her ear): Listen, you can hear the voice of God.
JG-L (holding the speaker next to him up to his ear): Yeah, I can hear it.
(Cue stylized planetarium-style stars descending and spinning around them.)

If you haven't choked on your own vomit after reading this, you may like this film.

1 comment:

Bartleby said...

My problem with Araki, and most B-list Mirimaxyish film-stuff, is that they inevitably have lines like that, which means I'm too busy twisting my balls in a knot to enjoy the vaguely ingenious plot twist or scene that gave (drunken, adolescent) birth to the project in the first place.

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