Peter’s Retro Reviews: Skin Deep (1989)

December 16, 2011

by Peter Nielsen

Let’s get one thing straight right away. There’s nothing I don’t like about this movie. I used to watch it so many times I almost wore out my VHS-tape. I love the dialogue, I love the slap-stick comedy in it and I love the characters. All of them! Yes, even Greg!

It’s written and directed by Blake Edwards, so you know you’re in for a quality-ride. Mr. Edwards is after all responsible for such gems as Victor Victoria, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 10 and Micki and Maude for instance. He has a knack for perfectly blending comedy and drama which I, for one, enjoy whole-heartedly.

Zach Hutton used to be a successful writer but now suffers from writer’s block and has taken to drinking too much. He’s also a womanizer who’s unable to stay faithful to any one woman. The movie opens on him in bed with a woman when all of a sudden a second woman arrives and puts a gun to his head. We assume this is his wife, but then a third arrives and this one is in fact his wife Alexandra. She’s played very well by Alyson Reed (Party of Five, Providence). She promptly throws out both him and his typewriter.

Insults... with a smile!

Insults… with a smile!

We then get to follow him as he slowly spirals further and further downward, but also his struggle to get better, because Zach knows he has a problem and desperately wants to get rid of it. He truly loves his ex-wife but he also loves women as he explains to his friend Barney, the bartender:

I want a loving, faithful, caring, caretaking wife and I wanna make love to everything else in long skirts… with bare feet and ripe juicy mouths. Little boy-girls with small firm breasts and tight asses. Rubenesque round women with big Mother Earth breasts and green eyes… God, I could go on and on… To which Barney answers: Don’t! I’m getting a hard-on. And Zach says: Me too!

Did I mention that I love the dialogue in Skin Deep, and especially between these two? Barney is played by the great Vincent Gardenia (Death Wish 1 & 2, Little Shop of Horrors, Moonstruck) and Zach by the equally great John Ritter (Three’s Company, Sling Blade, It). The chemistry between them is very believable. Actually, the chemistry between all the characters works very well. It doesn’t feel contrived at all. And the women Zach encounters, and beds, on his way are not just random faces, we do get to know them a little.

Electroshock therapy: by Molly

Electroshock therapy: by Molly

There’s sweet Lonnie, the bodybuilder, who’s ok with the situation and doesn’t want a relationship. She’s played by Raye Hollitt (Zap from American Gladiators). There’s Molly who’s not ok with the situation at all. She actually burns down his house and in a hilariously funny scene puts him through electroshock therapy. She’s portrayed by Julianne Phillips (Fletch Lives, Sisters). Another very funny scene that ends with Zach getting arrested for cock-fighting, starts with the lovely Amy McKenna, played by Chelsea Field (The Last Boyscout, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man).

There are also the scenes between Zach and his former mother-in-law Marge (Nina Foch). She does not like him at all, that’s for sure, and is not afraid to tell him either. Funny stuff! One who equally despises him is Greg, his stepson, but as I stated earlier, you just can’t help but like these characters. There are a couple more, but I can’t and won’t mention them here because it would take too long and it wouldn’t be fun for you if you knew everything before watching Skin Deep.

And I hope you do watch it because it’s not only a great comedy, but it also tackles serious subject matter, like Zach’s drinking problem and the death of a good friend, in a very competent way. Those things never feel weird in and around the funny stuff, it feels almost real, you know? But as I said, Blake Edwards was a great director, who also knew how to pick his actors. I did mention the actors, didn’t I? John Ritter was a fantastic actor and was amazing in this one.

Barney & Zach

Barney & Zach

I also like the music throughout Skin Deep and the fact that much of it comes from Zach sitting at a piano playing and singing. Either at home or at the bar, and it is actually John Ritter playing. The scene where Zach and Barney is serenading Lonnie Jones with the song Have You Met Miss Jones? is sweet even though neither of them are very good singers.

Falling Out Of Love, performed by Ivan Neville, is the song playing at the start of the movie. You know, where Alex (the wife) finds Zach in bed with both his girlfriend and his mistress? It’s a very good tune, very late 80’s and I liked it then and, as I watched the movie the other week, caught myself singing along with it, so I guess I still like it.

If I were to point out one tiny little thing that annoys me about this flick, it would have to be John Ritter’s beard. In the first half I have no problem at all with it, but in the latter half of the movie it goes back and forth between a real and a very obvious fake one. I don’t know why it does that, the only reason I can think of, is that the scenes with the fake beard was shot after principle filming wrapped. I just feel that it could have been done better so the continuity would have worked.

But… that is one tiny flaw in an otherwise fantastic movie filled with humor, slap-stick comedy and good drama. Please watch!

Until next time my friends…

Skin Deep (1989) Trailer

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