Mysterious Skin

on May 06, 2005 by Susan Green
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Gregg Araki's "Mysterious Skin" is undermined by a startling change in tone a quarter of the way through the narrative. The interesting indie, which begins as a black comedy about two rural Kansas Little Leaguers, quickly turns grim after their childhood encounter with a pedophile coach (Bill Sage). One boy becomes an adolescent male hustler addicted to unsafe sex: Neil is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, best known as a sardonic alien on TV's "3rd Rock From the Sun." Despite those outer-space credentials, Brady Corbet was cast as the other teen, Brian, who's tormented by the false memory of a UFO abduction.

Unable to confide in his clueless mother (Elisabeth Shue), Neil only trusts a platonic friend named Wendy (Michelle Trachtenberg). Eric (Jeff Licon) has a crush on him but winds up helping Brian figure out the puzzle of his earth-bound past. The future remains a big question mark for both victims. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brady Corbet, Michelle Trachtenberg, Elisabeth Shue, Chase Ellison, George Webster, Bill Sage, Jeff Licon, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Lisa Long and Chris Mulkey. Directed and written by Gregg Araki. Produced by Mary Jane Skalski, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Gregg Araki. A Tartan release. Drama. Rated NC-17 for extreme sexual content, some involving children, including dialogue and a rape scene. Running time: 103 min

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