One of the most heavily divisive films on the festival circuit is Under the Skin, the new independent science fiction thriller starring Scarlett Johansson. Premiering at the big three fall festivals, including an in-competition berth at the Venice Film Festival, Under the Skin became a huge source of debate amongst critics, film bloggers and festival-goers. Shopping for a distributor at the start, the film has been picked up by A24 Films.
Directed by Jonathon Glazer, an acclaimed music-video-turned-film director who made a huge splash with the 2001 Ben Kingsley gangster film Sexy Beast (earning the former ‘Gandhi’ an Oscar nomination for a decidedly different character), experienced similarly polarizing reactions to his 2004 Nicole Kidman film Birth. Under the Skin marks his third feature film. Under the Skin based on the acclaimed novel by Michel Faber, and written by first-time screenwriter Walter Campbell and Glazer. Johannson plays Laura, an alien in voluptuous human form who journeys around Scotland picking up random men and proceeding to seduce and use them to fulfill her mysterious mission.
The film inspired some of the most polarizing reactions of any film to debut so far this year. Variety’s Scott Foundas called the film, “An undeniably ambitious but ultimately torpid and silly tale of an alien on the prowl,” while the Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Collin proclaimed, “If my legs hadn’t been so wobbly and my mouth so dry, I would have climbed up on my seat and cheered.” Johansson, however, in a clear about-face from her Avengers role as Black Widow, has earned near unanimous praise for her reportedly nearly wordless performance. Hit Fix’s Gregory Ellwood said, “Glazer may be the visionary behind “Under the Skin” cinematic highs, but it must be noted that this film lives and dies on Johansson’s incredible turn…the bravest performance of Scarlett Johansson’s career.”
All of which makes the film seem like a perfect fit for upstart distributor A24 – the company which successfully released Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers this past spring amidst similarly divided reactions. The company has since also released hip, younger-skewing indies like this summers The Bling Ring directed by Sophia Coppola and the Sundance teen hit The Spectacular Now. Under the Skin in currently playing the Toronto Film Festival; no word has arisen about eventual release plans.
See what audiences and critics are saying about more festival premiers here.