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STUDIO MPI Home Video
RUNNING TIME 108 Minutes
• Cast Interviews
• Behind the Scenes
• Deleted Scenes
Did you know that murder is upside-down in Australia?
Guy Pearce, Miranda Otto, Ruth Bradley, Sam Neill
In Her Skin is a dramatic adaptation of the events surrounding the true story of Rachel Barber, an Australian teen who was murdered by the girl who used to babysit her family.
At the risk of sounding trite, allow me to say this: many, many films are based on (or inspired by) true stories. But it takes a certain type of filmmaker to open a film with “This is a true story.”
When I saw this sentence on screen, I scoffed. It’s a seriously ballsy statement, especially when you consider the sensitive nature of the source material. Indeed, the events depicted in this flick are the product of close collaboration with the parents of Rachel Barber, an Australian teen who went missing in Melbourne back in ’99. Rachel’s story is stranger than fiction; a twisted tale of obsession and madness. Rachel was murdered by her former babysitter, Caroline Reid, who had become fixated upon the idea of becoming Rachel (I told you it was strange).
But no film is a “true” story.
Each act of In Her Skin focuses on a different group of characters, giving the film an episodic, procedural vibe. The first act centers on Rachel’s parents, played by Miranda Otto and Guy Pearce. I must admit, it’s a bad first act. We open with a silly extended dance sequence, punctuated by one of the most ludicrous sex scenes I’ve ever seen outside of a Twilight film. It all feels like a higher-budget Lifetime movie with some decent cinematography.
The first act continues downhill, bogged down by some wooden performances from Otto and Pearce. They’re both capable actors, but they just seem flat here. It’s gotta be daunting for an actor to respectfully and accurately portray a real person (especially a real person whose kid was murdered), but their performances come off as stiff and dry, save for a few emotional moments in the third act.
If you can make it past this first half-hour, the flick starts to get interesting. Really fucking interesting at times. The second act of the film tells the story of Caroline, Rachel’s killer. The flick paints her as a frightening, disturbed, yet sympathetic hurricane of a woman. Inhabiting the role of Caroline is actor Ruth Bradley, who really goes fucking nuts in this film. She gives a caliber of performance I really didn’t expect to find in this Aussie drama.
Bradley frumped herself up for the role, gaining quite a bit of weight and letting her hair go frizzy. She’s a very attractive young Irish woman in real life, but you’d never know it by watching her work in this flick. She goes off like a fucking bomb, screaming, wailing, even drooling profusely in the film’s most memorable scene. It’s a performance that so far outshines the others in the film that actors might want to watch this one just for homework. Her accent was so freakin’ impeccable that I couldn’t tell she wasn’t Australian.
The third act starts to tie everything up, focusing again on Rachel’s parents and the one cop who wanted to make their story public. The procedural aspects of the film kick back in as the narrative focuses on getting Caroline in a pair of handcuffs. It’s not a dynamite third act, but everything comes together fairly neatly.
It’s a hard thing to describe, but In Her Skin just doesn’t feel right as a film. The film is a memorial to Rachel Barber, but she’s not a very well-defined character in the film. She’s not given much screen time, and is almost treated as a plot device instead of a person. When she is given screen time, she seems gullible and shallow. I can’t imagine this is how the parents of the real Rachel Barber wanted her to be portrayed.
Luckily, writer/director Simone North had the brilliant idea to incorporate and dramatize the story of her killer. For the purposes of film, Caroline’s story might be a more compelling one. I don’t mean to lessen real-life tragedy of Rachel’s murder, so I have to be careful here. If I have to judge In Her Skin objectively, two thirds of it are an overly stylized snooze with stilted dialogue and poor music choices. Ruth Bradley’s shockingly bold performance is the only reason to check this one out.
Some of the film’s better facets are the cinematography, lighting, and color palette. The transfer makes it all look fairly respectable, especially the color saturation and black levels. The audio is nothing to write home about, blasting the film’s sappy score and source music through all channels of the 5.1 surround mix. The dialogue is perfectly understandable, but the mix fails to establish any ambience.
There was an obvious effort to put some extras on the disc, but they’re all really poorly edited, like some studio pencil pusher was forced to edit them in Apple iMovie. The three cast interviews are dreadful to sit through, particularly Mirando Otto’s because she can’t seem to stop crying. Each interview is about fifteen minutes of poorly shot interview footage, roughly intercut with brief scenes from the film. The rehearsal footage is a bit more interesting to watch, where the cast and crew talk about the blocking and choreography of the film’s sequences. The deleted scenes were deleted for some pretty obvious reasons, and thusly can be skipped.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars