Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Movie Review: Under The Skin

Under The Skin did not live up to the title's namesake. Instead, this film just got on my nerves.

Under The Skin has been hyped as astounding, director Jonathan Glazer proclaimed a visionary and comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey  have even been tossed around for good measure, because who doesn't love Kubrick references? Well, after seeing the film I couldn't help but think of Sen. Lloyd Bentsen's epic, "You're no Jack Kennedy" line. Mr. Glazer, you're no Stanley Kubrick bro.

Don't get me wrong, Under The Skin does have flashes of genius sprinkled throughout it's (grueling) nearly two hour run time, but those moments are few and far between. Scarlett Johansson stars as a seductive alien who cruises the streets of Scotland looking for gullible/horny men to abduct. Johansson shines in her role as a sexy space Terminator who carefully studies and mimics her human victims.

Scarlett's performance is easily the highlight of the film and serves as the direct antithesis of her turn in last year's Her, where she played a sentient computer operating system who longed to feel apart of, and eventually surpassed, humanity. In Her, Johansson was a voice without a body while in Under The Skin, she plays a nameless, nearly silent, extraterrestrial who uses it's female-ish facade to communicate through intense stares and physical touch. Glazer uses his star's striking beauty to propel the film, a woman with Johansson's features truly does feel alien compared to the rest of the cast (comprised of first time, non actors) and the film's setting. The bizarre abduction/seduction scenes feature some of the gnarliest visuals I've ever seen before, and Glazer's penchant for fly on the wall, voyeuristic realism can be truly haunting.

That being said, a handful of cool visuals and even mesmerizing moments like the baby on the beach scene aren't enough to save this film. Under The Skin is simply too minimalist for it's own good. I'm talking bare bones storytelling to the point where there's literally no story. I could do without dialogue, I could do without fancy Hollywood trickery, I don't mind being challenged by a film but Glazer's latest movie is just too much...and by that I mean not enough. Under The Skin crumbles under it's own flimsy, haphazard narrative. Mystique and intriguing quickly devolves into pompous and boring. The dozen or so moments of visual brilliance are sandwiched between uneventful and downright lazy camera work. Even Scarlett Johansson going full on, full frontal couldn't resuscitate this film's pulse. What a shame. Congratulations to Mr. Glazer, he's successfully crafted the definitive fish out of water, alien flick...for aliens.

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