Under the Skin (2013)

undertheskin01I had no idea what was going on in the opening scene.  Typically I will attribute that to the alcohol. If I still don’t understand it in the morning, then just general stupidity,  I don’t think I was alone on this one, though.

It was hypnotic in a 2001 sort of way.  Slow deliberate moves, bright lights being eclipsed.  It even ends with a fast motorcycle trip, the scenery zipping by like Dave Bowman’s trip through the stargate.  And yeah, we get the giant eyeball.

The biker pulls over, goes down an embankment, and returns with a dead Scarlett Johansson thrown over his shoulder.  Against a stark white background, we next see her dead body being undressed by another ScarJo, who puts on the clothes.  Nice choreography so that there is one nekkid ScarJo at all times.

The next morning, ScarJo takes a rape van out for a drive.  After a trip to the mall, we get a long sequence of mostly POV shots as she drives, scanning the crowds on the sidewalks.  Finally she spots a man that seems to be random and speaks the first words of the movie 14 minutes in.  She asks for directions, which he provides.  Then she asks another stranger for directions.  And another.  And another.

She leads a number of men into a dark building.  And I mean pitch-black, void as a Joan Crawford blackout,  so that all we are seeing is their bodies.  It gets all art-housey again as the men follow ScarJo’s path.  They sink as if mindlessly walking into a tar pit, but she continues walking.  She turns, they are gone, and she walks back along the same path, as if she were actually consuming the men.

I’m still on the fence with ScarJo, even after watching Lucy this weekend.  She hits all the marks, but is she a good actress?  Is she beautiful?  The ambiguity works to her advantage.  She works without inhibition here, exhibiting her body frequently.  It is not a typical Hollywood body, but something — while great — that seems attainable to a normal guy.  She plays an alien (given away by the poster) who knows that her looks can reel men in, but not really understanding the mechanics.  She knows to buy the lipstick, how to apply it, but doesn’t understand the male response.

undertheskin04Even as she tries to hit the marks as a human — showing mercy to a disfigured man, eating diner food, attempting a real sexual relationship — it is clear that is she a true “other” only going through the motions.  Her core lack of humanity is seen repeatedly.

Under the Skin was hypnotic for about half the running time, then my interest tapered off a little.  It probably could have achieved greatness by trimming 10-15 minutes off the run time.  As is, I can still recommend it, but entirely understand if becomes tedious to some.


  • I can see that she had to be a brunette for this role, but really she should stick to the blonde look.  Even in Lucy, the brunette look just does not work for her.  Even less than here.
  • No one in the film is credited with a character name.  Many of the men were supposedly non-actors “tricked” into performing.  Claims like this are almost always a lie.
  • Third in this week’s “Under the” trilogy after Under the Bed and Under the Bed.
  •  “Hey Jonthan, we can go with the poster that gives away a major plot point, or the one that will reel in the dudes wanting top see some Scar tissue.  Whaddya think?”

He chose poorly.

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