Review: THE SKIN I LIVE IN (LA PIEL QUE HABITO) (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 31 January 2012



Plastic surgery takes a bizarre turn-of-event in Pedro Almodovar's latest psychodrama THE SKIN I LIVE IN. Think of it like an episode of TV's Nip/Tuck mixed with the usual Almodovar's pet themes of sexual identity, death, betrayal and loneliness wrapped in a warped fashion. Not only that, it's refreshing to see Almodovar reunites with Antonio Banderas after they had successfully collaborated together in 1990's TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN!

In this movie, Antonio Banderas plays Dr. Robert Ledgard, a highly-respectable plastic surgeon who has perfected the formula of synthetic skin capable to be more long-lasting than actual human flesh. He lives in a mansion which is also doubled as a private clinic. Inside the mansion he keeps his patient named Vera (Elena Anaya), a mysterious young woman who lives like a prisoner where she is locked inside a room with a comfortable bed and a TV with selective channels. Her meals and whatever things she needs are delivered on a dumbwaiter by Robert's housekeeper Marilla (Marisa Paredes). Everyday she is seen wearing in a full bodysuit. After work, Robert will be heading home to keep an eye on her through cameras he's installed in the room. Ironically Vera is not just an ordinary patient as only Robert and Marilla know her existence. But all that changes when Marilla's despicable son Zeca (Roberto Alamo) who suddenly reappears out of nowhere clad in a tiger costume. Apparently he's on the run from authorities and wants to lay low at the mansion. Coincidentally Robert is out of town for business, and Marilla is forced to let him stay for a time being until he comes back. But Zeca's presence proves to be a huge mistake after he discovers Vera via the camera monitor. What follows next is a string of unfortunate events which constantly takes the viewers into a whirlwind situation.

Adapted from a novel by Thierry Jonquet, the movie is particularly best seen if one doesn't know too much about the plot. This is where Almodovar develops his wicked sense of style to play around with his sneaky plot (a story he co-wrote with Agustin Almodovar). Nevertheless it's a fascinating story to follow through, which is subsequently leads to a big revelation. Mind you, it's one of the most shocking surprises I've ever seen in a long while and for that alone, I really must applaud the way Almodovar able to craft such an entertainingly twisted tale like an Alfred Hitchcock's psychological thriller.

The movie, like other Almodovar's works, is gorgeously framed and meticulously shot by Jose Luis Alcaine. Likewise, all the production values are top-notch it's simply hard to take your eyes off.

Antonio Banderas is particularly excellent as an obsessed plastic surgeon with a murky past, and he fares better in his native speaking language (Spanish, that is) than most of his Hollywood acting performances he did all this while. Elena Anaya is stunning as Vera, while the rest of the supporting cast are equally credible as well.

But as interesting as this movie is, it's quite a pity that Almodovar fails to engage the viewers with necessary emotional factor needed to invest over the course of the characters' motivation. Not surprisingly, by the time everything are revealed, the payoff is left unfulfilled. Even the ending is disappointingly lackluster.

THE SKIN I LIVE IN may not been Almodovar's best work, but it remains one of the most fascinating motion pictures ever seen this year.

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