Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Mysterious Skin

Had a half day today but didn't go see a movie. Why the hell not? you want to know. Good question. Tuesday is Super Bargain day at the movies and you only pay $5.00, so why the heck would I not go see a movie? Well, there is a good reason, let me tell you. It was the dental procedure this morning that put an end to my Bargain Priced Movie Fantasy. The procedure went on so long that I got to work late so had to leave later. Then I discovered that every movie started in an hour and a half. I can't wait around that long. I'm not a Zen master.
But I did see a movie yesterday. The movie was called Mysterious Skin.
In the movie, there is an 8-year-old kid called Brian and something weird happens to him. He finds himself hiding in the basement with his nose bleeding. Before that, all he can remember is that he was playing a Little League baseball game when it started raining. He can't remember what happened in the five hours between.
Then we see him grown up a bit, present day (the movie is set in the late '80s), he's around 18 years old. Still he is obsessed with what happened, and he has nightmares about it. He comes to believe that he was abducted by aliens, and he watches any TV program he can find on the subject. On one such program he sees a girl telling about her own experience of alien abduction. She doesn't live far away so he decides to go and visit her.
There's another kid the movie follows, Neil, and he was in the same Little League team. We see him when he also is 8 and his mother takes him along to the baseball field to meet the coach, who looks like the Marlboro Man. He's just called Coach in the movie. Coach takes a special liking to Neil and after games takes him back to his place where he's got all sorts of cool stuff like Atari and a big TV and beanbags. Uh oh. This doesn't look good does it? Does Neil's mother and father know where he is? Well, his father is long gone and his mother only seems to care about getting drunk and her next short-term boyfriend. Poor Neil.
In the present day we see Neil has become a male prostitute, picking up men in a local park.
Back with Brian, who is really now on a quest to find out what happened in those five hours, he finds a photograph of his Little League team and recognises Neil. All the names of the kids are on the back of the photo, so now he can track him down and ask him about what really happened after that rained-out Little League game.
I heard that when this film was given an R-rating (over-18), some *concerned individual* wrote a letter to the Office of Film and Literature Classification demanding it be re-examined, hoping the R classification would be overturned and then the movie denied a classification, banning the movie from being screened. Why did they do that? Apparently because the movie was some kind of how-to guide on how to groom children for abuse. It's not that at all, by the way. What a ridiculous idea. Anyway, the movie was reviewed again and fortunately the R-rating was upheld.
The thing is, all we usually find out about cases of child abuse is what we see on the news. Like the creepy looking guy here in Australia who flicks his tongue out, he hunches over and squirms, his eyes dart from side to side like a trapped fiend, and he lashes out crazily at the camera crews. That guy LOOKS like a monster. The guy in Mysterious Skin does not look like a monster. The movie is not some ten-second TV news spot guaranteed to make you jump around and loudly call for these monsters to be lynched, only then to forget about it seconds later and go back to your nice dinner and comment on the weather report. This movie goes deeper into it, and amongst the ugliness and despair are even moments of tenderness and humanity. It's deeper and more complex and challenging than the TV news.
The audience didn't make a peep. Everybody was eating choc tops.

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