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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Movie Review: Under the Skin

When hitching a ride from a stranger, what signs do you look for to tell if it's safe or not? In March 2014, we learned things don't always look like what they seem.

Directing this 108 minute drama/sci-fi/thriller is Jonathan Glazer.

The cast is: Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams, Joe Szula, Krystof Hadek, Paul Brannigan, Adam Pearson, Michael Moreland, Dave Acton and Jessica Mance.

A young woman drives around Scotland picking up and seducing men. Who is she? No one knows, because they're never around her long enough to truly get to know... the real her.

Ever since I heard about this one I was stoked to see it, the idea of the storyline sounded cool. Then I heard they grabbed up Johansson in the cast line (not that I'm a big fan of her's but hey), still, I wanted to catch this
one. Apparently, the movie was loosely adapted from a novel called Under the Skin (2000) written by Michel Faber.

Now, have I ever read the book? Well, no, but after watching the movie I was curious about the book. So I decided to look up the book and see if there was a difference between it and movie, or if it ran spot on. After finding out what the playthrough was in the book, and watching the movie I sat down and thought about everything. I have to say, the storyline that writers Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer put together was close to the book, and yes there were changes here and there to the story. Now, if I had to pick between the book and movie... the book was better, which is a common thing. The ideas the book played with were more interesting to me, and had meaning. Whereas the movie fell short and was a little weak to me. The movie used a lot of cinematography to visually tell a story to the audience. I mean a lot of visuals, because there is very little talking going on with the small cast.

Again, cinematography was a huge part of telling the story. Not that that's a bad thing, it's just as the movie would focus on the "important" part of a scene, they would stay there too long. I'm all about staring at a plastic bag blowing in the wind to show the symbolism of life. However, that should only take about a few seconds of a film, maybe even a whole minute. Anything longer than that is an over kill, and just wasting time/film that could be used in other places in the flick. Nor do you need to keep showing the same scenes (trying to make the same point) throughout the film. You made a deep and impacting point the first time. I get it, people are blind socially and don't appreciate life. Thank you for telling me... again, in case I missed it the first two times. So with all this going on, it made for such a s-l-o-w and boring playthrough.

 Sadly, after what I thought was a dragged out hour of the film, I looked to see how much of the film I had left. After looking, I was really hoping my watch was wrong. It turned out that only twenty minutes had passed. As you can probably guess I was a little disheartened by this discovery, because that meant I had so much more artistic visions to wallow through. Really, I could have watched the film with (almost) little issue, but the soundtrack freaking killed me. It's an annoying repetitive clip, that you're treated to hearing through out the film. Upside, as your attention starts to wonder off screen the soundtrack reminds that you were in the middle of something and brings you back to the film.
                                                 

Now, here we have a film with a very small cast, and the movie centers around it's biggest star, Scarlett Johansson. Why she's even in this one, I have no idea! Unless they were having trouble finding an actress that could drive around town talking to men or walk around a bit and for the most part play dead panned. Maybe this was the case and only a "top notch" star could truly deliver what the directer was looking for, I don't know. Really, I think it's because Johansson's name would look really good on a film and would (hopefully) attract a bigger audience. I can't say her performance did anything to help the flick.
                                                      
One of the few things I found intriguing was the men that Johansson picked up in the van were not actors. They were just regular guys that got picked up and had a conversation with her while being filmed by hidden cameras. Afterwords of course they told the guys about being filmed, and if they agreed to what needed to be done they stayed in the film. So the conversations that Johansson had was completely off script. With one exception, and that was Pearson, he is an actor that was picked by Glazer specially for the role.

The cinematography was nice looking, and the special effects were good also. Oddly, that's one of the problems I had with this one. The film told a descent story, and had potential to create thought provoking imagery, and a couple of times pulled it off. Just not enough times to make it a good movie. So the lack of consistency hurt the film. When you can create a great visual scene that can say a thousand words, how can you not keep doing that through the rest of  the film. You showed creative potential, and then stopped and went on to reshow the same thing over again.

Overall, this will not be everyone's kind of movie. Matter of fact, this will probably be for a small, select fan base. Yet that group will absolutely love this film and think this is the coolest thing since sliced cheese. I kind of cry a little bit for that group when I think about that. Either way, after watching this film I can't say I'm a fan of writer/director Glazer. Then again this is only one of three films he's directed. So maybe I'll check out the others and find he has more to offer. So, would I give money to this title? No! I would recommend finding the cheapest way possible to catch this one. Rental, whatever but I wouldn't pay theater prices at all. Unless they're offering like free bottomless popcorn... cause movie popcorn is the best!

It's rated R for nudity, violence and language.

2 stars


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