In Blake Edwards’ Skin Deep (1989) the late John Ritter portrays a narcissistic, alcoholic, sex-addicted, emotionally stunted, blocked writer who repeatedly pays a heavy price for his personal failings. This might not sound like a super-funny premise, but Skin Deep is, in fact, a farce.
When movies employ the “blocked writer” theme, the protagonist is frequently someone who possesses remarkable talent that is being ignored or squandered through some self-destructive means or another. Booze is frequently involved. Ritter stays true to this formula in his portrayal as a successful, Pulitzer Prize winning author who has stopped writing and descended into a swirling vortex of alcohol abuse, promiscuity and wisecracks.
In his journey to wholeness, Ritter endures extreme marital strife, ex-girlfriend gunfire, several incarcerations, fiery automobile collisions, angry girlfriend house arson, enraged ex-lover electrocution, female body builder extreme copulation, and jealous heavy metal guitar player phosphorescent condom assault. As bad as Ritter’s suffering is, the viewer must endure Ritter’s piano playing and singing of jazz standards, which is an even greater suffering. He finally hits bottom, and through the interventions of an elite treatment team (comprised of his laconic shrink and a bartender), the drinking, womanizing, blocking and singing all comes to a halt.
Parents should be advised to pre-screen this film before allowing young children to view it. It contains nudity, adult situations, foul language, violence and some absolutely terrifying hairdos. The flic is dated (Ritter uses an electric typewriter) but the theme is timeless, and it ends happily with an unrealistic marital reconciliation, sobriety, and the publication of a new best-selling (of course) novel.
Does Skin Deep offer anything useful to blocked writers in the 21st century? Well…let’s just say that if the prospect of writing seems like the worst torture you can imagine, try watching Skin Deep.