Mysterious Skin
dir. Araki
Opens Fri June 24
Cinema 21

Usually I say what I think. If I hate a movie, I say it, and if I love it, I offer underhanded compliments. But in the case of Mysterious Skin, I feel tentative and unsure. For long periods of the film, I waited for my cell phone to ring or muttered, "I'm so bored" under my breath--I was mad at the movie, not only for making me watch it, but because it's about pedophilia, a topic which is about as played as Columbine.

That's my thing, though. I don't like movies that are gratuitously and predictably unpleasant. And while Mysterious Skin isn't wholly distasteful--the vibe is actually somewhat complacent--the sex scenes are unnecessarily sick and raunchy, which lost my interest more than engaged or shocked me.

Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, better known as that kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun) and Brian (Brady Corbet) have both been victims of sexual abuse by their extremely creepy baseball coach. Both react differently, with Neil becoming a hustler, and Brian thinking he was abducted by aliens rather than molested. Much of the story focuses on Neil, who has a slightly pedophilic-seeming mom (Elisabeth Shue) and a pair of friends (including the intolerable Michelle Trachtenberg, better known as that kid from Buffy). Anyway, Neil is morose because of his past, and thus blows gross dudes in his Kansas hometown for money before moving to New York and blowing people there, where he of course ends up massaging AIDS sores, being forced to snort coke, and getting violently raped.

All this clichéd hardship seems too convenient, and while fellow victim Brian's confusion is lovable, Neil's story is just unsurprising. As beautifully shot and occasionally pleasant as this film is, I just wish somebody would try something new already.