Knives and Skin (Jennifer Reeder, 2019) USA

Reviewed by Gordon Gerbitz, Viewed at AFI Fest 2019.

Knives and skin is a melted ice cream cake of a movie.  I don’t know wither to love this movie or hate it.  Or Love it, for hating it!  While attending the AFI Fest Film Festival 2019 I met a film revue blogger who said he hated it, because it was just a movie.  Perhaps we Americans should watch this movie to see all the possible ways our pop and material culture morphs itself into bad behavior toward one another, prescription drug abuse, psychosis and other of our darkest  idiosycracies.  This film is made in Chicago with local Chicago thespian talent.  The director/screenwriter, Jennifer Reeder attended the AFI fest late-night screening and also lives in Chicago.  The reason why I mention this is, before the internet, when I was growing up in rural Wisconsin the biggest retailers were Sears, Wards and JcPennys. All these mail order catalog companies were based in Chicago, Il.

Reeder takes a cataloged approach to what is wrong with human behavior in America and incorporates this into a full feature film.  So I can spend more time on the script, Knives and Skin is about a teenage high school girl who goes missing in a typical suburb of a mid-western rust-belt city.  Just like my favorite film of the festival, “Family Matters” directed by Mateo Bandowsky, Ms Reeder also classifies here movie as magical realism.  I’m not 100% convinced.  However, just like Bendowsky, she has done several “shorts” before venturing into full features this year.  I will say this, it is a creative screenplay on social pressures and pressure to be popular at any cost at schools all across America but especially in the suburbs.  Social problems use to be the main domain of urban cities in America, but those problems have moved out into the suburbs and rural areas.  This movie has all the family dysfunction and psychosis on display and it should scare the hell out of you.  One family is totally psychotic and you go through each family member and say they could have done it.

The costumes in this movie run the gamut.  After all this is a large cast of local Chicago land high scholars but the adults have their own costume fetishes too.  The girls in the choir, two of which develop a lesbian relationship while in high school.  Some people, even in the LGBTQIA community might protest how some of the characters are presented.  Despite that, the group Allout was a sponsor of the showing.  The social scientist in all of us should soberly watch this film.  Maybe then, we can start to address family life, school life, social life in a responsible matter that avoids unpopular and anti-social behaviors..

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