MYSTERIOUS SKIN: Lacey Terrell/Tartan Films
Owen Gleiberman
May 11, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Mysterious Skin

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
runtime
99 minutes
Limited Release Date
05/20/05
performer
Brady Corbet, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elisabeth Shue, Michelle Trachtenberg
director
Gregg Araki
distributor
TLA Entertainment
author
Gregg Araki
genre
Drama

We gave it a B+

Gregg Araki has always been a filmmaker of extremes — wilder! kinkier! campier! more! — so perhaps it took a subject as extreme as pedophilia to move the director of The Doom Generation into creating his first work of feeling. In Mysterious Skin, two 8-year-old Kansas boys are abused in the summer of 1981 by their Little League coach (Bill Sage), a practiced seducer of children who has the creepy look of a jock?turned?Chippendales dancer. The boys are marked in opposite ways: Brian (Brady Corbet), who entirely blanks out his night of hell, grows up into a stunted pasty nerd, convinced that he was abducted by aliens. Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the coach’s ”favorite,” suffers both less and more, becoming the most insolent of teen hustlers, and Gordon-Levitt, who has the horsey, mean-eyed sensuality of a Larry Clark pinup, gives a remarkable performance. Mysterious Skin dawdles more than it flows, but it comes alive whenever Araki, hovering between tragedy and voyeurism, reveals how sex can tear lives to pieces.

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