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Haunting and Spellbinding: Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin Movie
Not sure where to begin. Actually, I do. As I sat there watching this sci-fi movie with absolutely no CGI that I could see, the movie is mesmerizing, creepy, moody, dark, haunting, because of its one and only movie star-Scarlett Johansson. It is her monologue of a movie. Just like the recent Robert Redford movie, where he is on his boat that is sinking very slowly.
These kind of movies are extremely difficult to make. You have a single actor that must carry the audience and advance the movie. The script and acting must engage the audience to avoid boredom. The director has to pull all the tricks out.
Under the Skin is a sci-fi movie but devoid of any CGI effects and very little action. There are no space ships because it is about an alien who has landed on earth (movie was filmed in Scotland) and who survives via having sex with strangers-single and unattached. The alien has "helpers" who keeps things in check. Rated R for nudity, frontal shots of her and men, it is not, by any means, an excuse to make a sex movie because very little acts are shown. It just happens that the alien (Scarlett is stunning here, yet, cold and indifferent about it) must lure men into an abandoned house for sex that never actually happens. The men are lusting after her as she strips, but as the men approach, they sink into a black substance and eventually consumed- they explode. Very weird to see this and so artistic.
As the movie rolls along, I kept watching and wondered what is going to happen, Scarlett's performance is perfect-no emotion as she tries to learn and survive on Earth. She ventures off on her own to experience what the elements offer-cold, wind, fog, does not effect her to the dismay of humans. While she interacts well with humans, there are hiccups where she "goes blank" as to what to say or do. Even when she does have sex for real with a man, she has no idea what just happened. The man has no idea what is wrong with her. This really disturbs her alien being and she just gets up and leaves and ventures into the woods to escape.
Having never eaten earthly food, when she enters a roadside diner, she does not know really what to do. She looks around and copies what others are doing. When the cake she ordered arrives, she fiddles with the fork and has a piece of cake. She is robotic. As a viewer, you are wondering about every scene change as to what will happen. Here, she seems to like the cake but suddenly and violently, she pukes it up. Lots of eyes watching.
Any gripping movie relies on its cinematography and soundtrack. Scotland was perfect for this and the music always warns the viewer something is coming. It is a very eerie soundtrack and sparsely used. In fact, unlike many movies, this is a sparse movie in dialogue and music. All this creates a suspense, a compelling suspense that makes the viewer want to watch. The movie is not boring at all because of it.
As the alien deals with humans, she is callous and does not understand emotion like the scene on the beach when she leaves a baby crying on the beach after the parents are killed and the surf is close. In conversing with humans, it is a limited vocabulary and many times she just "goes blank".
The reason why she leads men on into sex and into the black liquid is not totally clear. Since there is no sex between them, I failed to understand her need for it. How does it "feed" her? In the final scene of this 108 min. movie, a man following her in the woods tries to rape her until her human skin facade begins to peel off when she fights him off (she does not like having human sex). This is where some special effects enter. The man scared as to what he got himself into gets some gasoline and pours it on her. By now, the REAL alien is revealed totally black yet beautiful as she peels her human skin off. The scene is startling. The man tosses a match and she slowly burns. Her soul goes up in smoke.
As a viewer, you leave thinking about the movie. It leaves an impact on you. Scarlett was perfect for this-beautiful and icy. The Scottish accents tended to make it even more alien to an American ear. The artistic and music qualities linger in your mind.
Go see it.