John Ritter is Zach Hutton, an alcoholic writer whose life is unraveling by the minute. Whether his "writer's block" was a result of his alcoholism or that he's taken to the bottle because of it is never firmly established with viewers. It's a moot point anyway as far as director/writer Blake Edwards is concerned. Alcohol has driven Zach "over the edge" and he's in big trouble. The fact that he's able to easily charm his way into one brief sexual encounter after another and get by with his obvious intelligence only compounds his problems. Yet his sexual escapades and disheveled lifestyle contribute to some of the most hilarious scenes ever filmed in a movie. The real funny thing, however, is that "Skin Deep" is actually a serious film posing as a standard Blake Edwards slapstick farce; its underlying theme is about the main character's desperate and dire situation. Zach is spiraling towards suicide even faster than he drives his sportscar. So why are we laughing?
Others in the cast include Alyson Reed as Zach's estranged and exasperated wife Alexandra. She provides some gravitas to the film as does the great Nina Foch (Zach's not too happy mother-in-law). Zach has been a huge disappointment to both of them and it's written all over their faces. Julianne Phillips (Bruce Springsteen's first wife) has a nice role as one of Zach's almost serious relationships. The best secondary role is reserved for Michael Kidd as Zach's psychiatrist Doctor Westford. His simple but critical advice near the end of the movie saves our hero from complete disaster. "You know what I tell alcoholics when they want me to help them? I tell them to STOP DRINKING." At last, his terse words of wisdom have an immediate and "sobering" effect on Zach and the recovery of his life begins. "Skin Deep" plays like a combination of two of Edwards' very popular and earlier films, "The Days of Wine and Roses" and "Ten." One minute it's deadly serious and in the next it's a rip roaring comedy-of-errors. The balance is a delicate one and without the sure-handed direction of Blake Edwards, the movie would've fallen flat on its face. As it turned out, "Skin Deep" was nowhere near a hit at the box office. That's too bad because the film is one of the better ones in Blake Edwards' career and certainly could use a reappraisal. Also, John Ritter never gave a finer performance than he did in this movie. That fact alone should prompt interested viewers to find this film before it gets lost in the archives.
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