In 2001, Michael Faber wrote “Under the Skin“, a thought-provoking novel about a mysterious extraterrestrial stalking men along the West Coast of Scotland. Now, filmmaker Jonathan Glazer (“Sexy Beast”) has released a film version of the book, and although the film is thought-provoking, it is so disconcerting and uncomfortable, it is painful to watch.
Scarlett Johansson (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) plays the alien who prowls the streets in a van, pretending to need directions in an effort to seek out unwary men who are willing to accept a ride in the hopes of a liaison. Assuming the identity of a beautiful but unfortunate female victim, Johansson’s character simply does her job, collecting the men while oblivious to the complexities of human life.
Daniel Landin’s cinematography is impressive, and Johansson looks terrific, but the film’s deliberate slow pacing is excruciating. Glazer co-wrote the script with Walter Campbell (who has no other screenwriting credits to his name), but the paucity of dialog leads me to think the duo had a lot of free time. I’m sure Glazer’s intent was to allow the viewer time to contemplate the meaning of it all, but by the time it got to the big reveal, I no longer cared.
I love a good Indy film as much as the next guy, but “Under the Skin” has no appeal for me. Perhaps I am an unsophisticated moviegoer by Jonathan Glazer’s standards, but I know what I like, and I didn’t like “Under the Skin”.
The Bottom Line: While Michael Faber’s novel has an interesting and thoughtful plot, watching the film version is like watching paint dry. “Under the Skin” will probably attract an elitist audience, but I think the Emperor simply has no clothes. I do not recommend it.
R for graphic nudity, sexual contact, some violence and language. 1 hr. 48 min.