You see it a lot: an extremely charming and good-looking person accompanied by someone who is just the opposite. Shy to the point of being reclusive, physically unattractive and unusually lacking in social skills, these human satellites seem to exist only to make their pleasing companion shine all the brighter. “Skins,” director Chris Mancini’s subtle as a sledgehammer but still amusing short film, takes this concept a step further. Here, hunky John and schleppy John are one and the same person; the latter literally donning the former, handsome head and all like, well, an extra layer of skin.
A rising star at the Ad Nauseam, Inc. ad agency, beloved by his co-workers and dating a foxy girlfriend to boot, Hunky John has it all goin’ on. This understandably has his somewhat less outwardly blessed inner companion — the one who’s doing all the work — as frustrated as he is jealous. So much so, in fact, that he decides the time has come to literally dump his handsome outer shell in the woods and start over as his true inner self.
It’s a nice idea, but one that quickly runs afoul of life’s cruel realities. His associates and girlfriend don’t even recognize the “real” John. When he soon finds himself minus his promotion, his friends and his girl, John must confront the harsh choice facing him: either live a life of surface satisfaction and inner discontent, or try to go it alone, even if it means starting from scratch as the real him.
“Skins” could be dismissed as a mean spirited film…if only it weren’t so accurate in its depiction of man’s shallowness. Even so, it would have been oh-so-very easy for Mancini to drown us in a syrupy morality tale instead of this entertaining farce. Thankfully, he avoids this temptation, unapologetically playing out his ridiculous premise more or less strictly for laughs.
One of the more refreshing things about the film is its reliance on old school (i.e., “pre-digital effects) filmmaking to pull off its illusions. This gives “Skins” a certain gritty charm that high dollar computer effects simply can’t match. Sure it’s a stretch, but maybe Mancini’s low-tech approach is a good metaphor; a blow struck on behalf of all those satellites like schleppy John who have to work a little harder because they’re just not blessed with the outer advantages of their more fortunate companions. – Merle Bertrand