Skin Deep (1989) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Zach Hutton is a womanizing, drunken writer whose life seems to be falling apart at the seams. He's still in love with his ex-wife (whose family can't stand him), writer's block is keeping him from completing his latest novel, and he repeatedly finds himself in trouble of one sort or another with the law, ex-girlfriends, and jealous boyfriends.

  • Blake Edwards's return to the male-in-meltdown territory he explored in "10" and "That's Life," stars John Ritter as unemployed writer named Zach, who is not only suffering from writer's block, but his drinking is out of control, as is his obsessive womanizing, and, not surprisingly, his wife wants to end their marriage. To add to his problems, his house has just burned down, and his agent is knocking at death's door. But since this is a Blake Edwards comedy, Zach has enough charm and relative affluence to continue his pursuits, which the director regards with a bemused detachment. One of his girlfriends sets his piano on fire, and another gets him to wear a glow-in-the-dark condom, allowing him to engage in a condom duel with her jealous, similarly clad rock-star boyfriend. Eventually, Zach turns to fatherly bartender Barney, who should have long ago cut off his bar tab, and psychiatrist Dr. Westford, and both tell him to stop destroying himself through drink. Ritter rings some surprisingly complex changes in the wildly farcical film, and, in the condom battle, participates in one of the funniest moments ever committed to celluloid while suggesting an interesting new subtext.

  • A womanizing alcoholic writer, whose life seems to be falling apart at the seams, repeatedly finds himself in trouble of one sort or another with the law, ex-girlfriends, and jealous boyfriends.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Writer Zachary "Zach" Hutton (John Ritter) is caught by his girlfriend, Angie (Denise Crosby), having sex with her attractive hairdresser. Furious, Angie takes a pistol from Zach's nightstand and pulls the trigger. He leaps up and grabs the gun, explaining that he always leaves the first chamber empty to avoid accidents. As the hairdresser runs for her life, the scuffle is interrupted by Zach's wife, Alex (Alyson Reed).

    Later, Zach tells his bartender, Barney (Vincent Gardenia), that Alex kicked him out and he confesses that he wants to have a warm, loving, faithful wife, but have other women on the side. He visits his lawyer, Jake (Joel Brooks), who relays Alex's divorce demands, including the house, their cars, and a large alimony payment. Alex wins it all, which convinces Zach to visit a therapist named Dr. Westford (Michael Kidd). Although Zach promises to stop chasing young women, he leaves the office and immediately crashes his car while ogling a real estate broker named Molly.

    The next day, Zach confesses that he sometimes suffers from impotency. He bursts into tears when Dr. Westford suggests he start writing again. Zach eventually buys a house from Molly (Julianne Phillips) and has her move in, believing she will help him settle down. After six months of continued infidelities, a frustrated Molly sets Zach's piano on fire while he is playing, causing the new home to go up in flames.

    At the bar, Zach meets Lonnie Jones, a bodybuilder (Ray Hollitt), and she takes him home. Although Zach is intimidated by her muscles, he manages to overcome his impotency.

    Later, Zach returns to the bar and learns that Sparky (Peter Donat) has committed suicide. Spying an attractive woman, Zach sends over a drink. It arrives just as her rock musician boyfriend appears, and Zach flees.

    Later, Zach hears a couple fighting in the hotel room above his. Seconds after complaining to the front desk, Zach hears a knock at his door and opens it to find Amy and Rick (Chelsea Field and Bryan Genesse), the couple from the bar. Amy leaps to protect Zach, and Rick ends the relationship. Later, Amy invites Zach up to her room and they decide to have sex. Amy offers Zach some of Rick's condoms, which they discover glow in the dark. As they are about to make love, they hear Rick returning and Zach hides in the closet. Rick pressures Amy into having "make-up sex," putting on another luminescent condom. Zach attempts to sneak out, but Rick spots the glow of Zach's condom. The two fight, their glowing genitals bouncing in the darkness. Later, Jake gets a call from Zach, who claims to have been arrested for "cock-fighting."

    Zach attends Sparky's funeral and sees Alex, who initially rebuffs his attempts to talk. However, seeing how distraught he is, she invites him to dinner. He arrives at her house to find his mother-in-law, Marge, stepson Greg (Bo Foxworth), and Greg's girlfriend, Rebecca (Jean Marie McKee). After an awkward dinner, Zach asks Alex to take him back, but she explains that he is too frightened of life to be monogamous.

    After drinking heavily at Barney's, Zach calls Alex and she confirms that she is in a new relationship. Desperate to find himself, Zach goes to see Dr. Westford, who explains it is next to impossible to change one's basic character. After a series of unfortunate encounters with women and drunken escapades, Zach again calls Alex and learns that she is away for the weekend. Intrigued, he goes to Marge's house and finds her packing. Marge refuses to tell him Alex's whereabouts, but Zach spies a nearby note with Alex's location in Santa Barbara, California.

    While rushing to Santa Barbara, Zach is pulled over for speeding and spends another night in jail. He arrives at the hotel to find that Alex is getting married. The minister asks if there are any objections to the marriage. Zach opens his mouth, but Marge punches him in the stomach before he can speak. Halting the ceremony, Alex walks Zach to his car, and he confesses that he always counted on Alex to save him. Although she insists he must save himself, she tells her fiancee she cannot marry him.

    Zach begs Dr. Westford to give him advice on what to do. The therapist states that when an alcoholic tells him he wants to be cured, he tells him to stop drinking. Zach goes to his beach house, sits in the sand, and meditates on Dr. Westford's words. Later, Barney suggests all Zach's problems stem from his fear of life.

    Months later, Zach writes a new book. At the launch party, he sees Alex and proclaims he has stopped drinking. When she tells him "two out of three" is not enough, he confesses to being celibate for six months. He kisses her and insists they were made for each other. As he plays the piano, Rebecca sits beside him, tells him his book aroused her, and places her hand between his legs. Zach refuses her advances, and instead takes Alex to a hotel room to make love.

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