‘Bodies’ struggles to find an identity
Can't decide if it wants to be satire
Bodies Bodies Bodies is a movie that tries so hard to be several different things that it doesn’t amount to much of anything in the end. It wants to be a satire of Generation Z and zoomer culture, but it doesn’t push hard enough on those elements to succeed; the worst crime a satire can commit is to not be recognizable as one. Maybe it’s an in-on-the-joke slasher like Scream (2022, since designation is now necessary), but if that’s the case, why aren’t any of the characters making fun of the tropes that surround them?
Murder mysteries like the superior Werewolves Inside and the Apple TV+ series The Afterparty have been popular recently, but this film doesn’t exactly fit that categorization either.
Though I can’t say I laughed much, perhaps it fits best as a dark comedy about interchangeable caricatures without a clue.
We open on young lovers Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova) as they head to a “hurricane party” hosted by Sophie’s friend David (Pete Davidson) at his dad’s mansion. Upon their arrival, they’re greeted warmly by Alice (Rachel Sennott) and her older boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace), but much less so by Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) and David’s girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders). To break the tension, Sophie suggests a game of Bodies Bodies Bodies, the rules of which are never clearly explained other than the fact that it resembles a variation of Mafia with flashlights. Once an actual dead body pops up within their game of fake murder, each of the partygoers becomes a suspect for one another as the tropical storm rages on outside.
The talented young cast does a nice job filling in the gaps of the screenplay, where the development behind their characters should be, doing their level best to distinguish these otherwise indistinguishable characters from one another.
In her English directorial debut, Halina Reijn often shifts the narrative focus between each of the houseguests, both keeping the audience on their toes and allowing us to spend split time with all of them. Stenberg was perhaps the only good aspect of last year’s otherwise atrocious Dear Evan Hansen, and she gives another compelling performance here as an addict struggling to reconnect with her friends. Though characters pester her about not keeping up in the group chat, it’s made clear in time that this group of friends really only functions in a virtual sense as opposed to a face-to-face setting.
But Bodies Bodies Bodies doesn’t seem to have much of an attitude or perspective on the culture behind these young (except Greg) faces. A scene of confrontation later in the film is one of the only sequences that feels like it was conceived as a series of tweets, with characters volleying jabs about “feelings are facts” platitudes and “ableist” accusations. If this film is supposed to be mocking how these characters interact, it needs to either keep up this cadence throughout or drop it entirely, but as a thesis, it’s undercut by a movie that elsewhere doesn’t have enough else to say about Gen Z. I’d be happy to see a movie that either stands up for this crowd or takes them down, but the film resides within a safe space where it wants to offend without offending.
Rhetoric aside, Bodies Bodies Bodies falls flat in the visual realm, which is especially troubling at a time when movie theaters finally seem to be coming back in fashion and only films “meant to be seen on the big screen” are selling tickets.
The hurricane outside the mansion causes an obligatory power outage, which leads to most of the film being lit by either characters’ cellphone flashlights or glow sticks. This should be a unique challenge for any cinematographer to take on, but director of photography Jasper Wolf shoots too much over-the-shoulder with very few wide shots to give us a sense of the space.
Strong performances and some amusing dialogue aside, Bodies Bodies Bodies is boring, bland, and basic.
New movies coming this weekend
Playing only in theaters is Beast, a survival thriller starring Idris Elba and Sharlto Copley about a father and his two teenage daughters who find themselves hunted by a massive rogue lion intent on proving that the Savanna can only have one apex predator.
Streaming on Paramount+ is Orphan: First Kill, a psychological horror film starring Isabelle Fuhrman and Julia Stiles following a girl as she breaks out of an Estonian psychiatric facility and travels to America by impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy family.
Available to rent or stream on AMC+ is Spin Me Round, a romantic comedy starring Alison Brie and Aubrey Plaza about a woman who wins an all-expenses trip to Florence through the company where she works but finds a different adventure than the one she imagined.