48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Disturbing but realistic,
This review is from: Mysterious Skin [DVD]  (DVD)
Creepy pedos in baseball-playing, mom-loving, apple pie-eating small town America? You bet. And because it is devoid of an "after school special" sentimentality or Spielberg gloss, it feels that more chilling and bold and real.
An uncomfortable film to watch, but resonant for me as someone who grew up gay in 1980s Kansas. Details like the Little League games, the Halloween spook house and the shady characters cruising the park were all spot on, although I doubt the film will be championed by the Kansas Travel & Tourism Division.
I've not read Scott Heim's book on which this film is based, but on reading his background you realise each of the youths in the film is a manifestation of himself. He claims to have seen a UFO with his family, excelled in school and lived with his single mom after a divorce (like Brian), he announced baseball games (like Neil) and his infatuation with cosmetics and British goth pop made him the subject of death threats (like Eric).
Altogether that means there's a lot of truth to what's being depicted, no matter how dangerous or taboo some may consider the subject matter. I think Araki should be praised for making a mockery of the American movie ratings by filming such an explicit movie that doesn't show a thing. I've seen European art-house films with twice as much flesh which were half as frank. I think what disturbs people most is there is no moralising, no revenge and no happy ending where learning the truth frees the tortured characters from their shattered lives.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the stand-out from the cast, with Michelle Trachtenberg failing to bring any weight to the film's more poignant scenes because her dialogue was too 'writerly' (saying things that people may think but rarely voice).
I was disappointed that the film was not filmed in Kansas, but they did an excellent job finding places in California which were strikingly similar.