Comforting Skin. I watched it on the heels of watching Soulmate, meaning I accidentally watched all of the non-standard, human / something else horror / romance movies in one sitting.
Now, when I sat down to write about Soulmate, I challenged myself to "write something nice about it", even though it wasn't very good. I ran out of steam and started this review instead, as I wasn't holding myself to some standard of positivity. Being a snarky jerk is significantly easier, let me tell you. Were I to apply that self-imposed standard of giving a shit movie a chance, I may have been able to write something favorable about Comforting Skin - I just don't want to work that hard for something so undeserving.
So, Comforting Skin. Somehow many folks have come to love this movie and keep treating it as some avant garde, low-budget, masterpiece exploration of mental illness. Those people are stupid and should stop writing about movies. Those who continue to write about Victoria Bidwell's performance as some emotional tour de force have forgotten to watch basically any other movie with a mentally ill main character. If you want to see someone descend into madness, start with The Shining and get back to me after you've muddled through Memento (the only Christopher Nolan movie I'm not 110% tired of). I'd even accept a viewing of Vampire's Kiss. Some reviewers have called the movie "lean," I'd call it "lacking."
The gist of this one?A shy, depressed, unattractive girl gets fed up with her worthless, miserable life and decides to get a tattoo to make her life better - because tattoos can do that. She thinks that this tattoo will save her from her cutting and her drug problem and her shitty family and her low-wage job and her inability to find love. This plan seems completely legit for an evening or so. Her feelings change when the tattoo comes to life and starts moving all over her body. If you're telling your dirty little mind that this can't possibly be going where you think it's going, you're wrong. It is.
The first time yields a rape-y little scene in which our main character writhes around the bed while her tattoo roams around her body in something that looks like it belongs in The Entity. This eventually blossoms into a loud, active sexual relationship that has her neighbors asking, "who's the new man"?
Sorry folks. No "new man". Just a lot of hot sex with a tattoo.
As I previously mentioned, on the periphery of this story are a cast of characters making her life miserable. There are her abusive parents. There's her high school best friend that she lives with and who has some kind of agoraphobia. She's perpetually angry him because he didn't have sex with her when they were 18. Finally, there's her neighbor / friend from down the hall who is a middle-aged "party girl" that drunkenly hooks up with much younger men and who hasn't realized that she's a pathetic waste of life yet.
At some point, there's a bit of a "break up" with the tattoo and the aging party girl takes over as the awkward new lover. There is absolutely nothing sexy about the sex scenes between these two women and yet nothing terribly uncomfortable, either. Our leading lady doesn't seem forced or coerced so much as "completely disinterested in the whole situation". Thanks for the let down, lesbianism.
The whole time I kept feeling like I was watching Single White Female - there's something about the apartment the main characters live in and something about the way the aging party girl obsesses over Bidwell (even going out and getting the same tattoo)... it just feels similar. It also feels similar to that docudrama, In Her Skin (where the obsessive neighbor kidnaps a teenage girl, kills her, and apathetically tries to "steal her identity".)
After all this build up and poorly executed esoteric meditation on sanity, the movie just sort of ends when Bidwell locks herself in the tattoo artist's office and cuts off her toes with a machete.
So - no lessons are learned, no lives are lost, and no one gives a crap. Thanks, self, for picking another loser tonight.
You can watch the Comforting Skin trailer here: