Friday Film Review --"Bodies, Bodies, Bodies"
The film Bodies, Bodies, Bodies is a murder mystery with heavy dose of black comedy targeting the Gen Z cell phone addicted culture.
The film centers on a bunch of rich twenty-somethings who decide to ride out a hurricane in a secluded mansion owned by the parents of one of their friends. When the lights go out, they play a game that involves a version of hide-n-seek, where after throwing back shots and slapping each other on the face, they must find a randomly selected victim and then the killer. Of course, during the hunt someone turns up actually dead, and the group descends into survival mode to determine who the killer is. All loyalties are lost and opposite Netflix’s retro Stranger Things, where “friends don’t lie,” everybody lies and betrays partners.
Now, generational social fads have always been ripe for hilarious film parody, but the black comedy genre is not for the faint of heart. The characters are uniformly unlikable. The plots typically abandon any tether to realism favoring the deliberately absurd to amplify caustic dialogue and character conflict. With limited exceptions, character development and deeper metaphors are supplemented with turn it up to 11 contemporary soundtracks. And Bodies, Bodies, Bodies checks all those boxes.
I guess the financing pitch was probably something like “think a cast of Wynona Ryder’s rich-girl Heathers but make them Gen Z, woke, inclusive characters and place them in Scream, with a boozy, pseudo-intellectualism and uber-competitive friend therapy sessions of Metropolitan, and top if off with a hurricane induced black out which disables cell phones.” Dutch director Halina Reijn is unapologetic in her approach, casting a very talented group of up and comers led by Amandla Stenberg and Maria Bakalova, and anchored by Pete Davidson who plays both host and court jester for the party. And that’s her problem, the director actually likes and respects these characters, and the real focus of her parody is not Gen Z, but Gen Z’s blind obsession with cell phone technology and social media. As a result, her sarcasm is tempered by her empathy and flat-out respect for the culture she uses as a vehicle for the parody, failing to share the gag with the audience until the film’s final scene. This approach wastes some very talented acting, which but for a few improvised lines which are simply gold, fails to sustain any consistent humor or audience allegiance to the cause.
So, on my Black Diamond ski trail rating system, Bodies, Bodies, Bodies earns my beginner GREEN ski trail rating. Had this cautionary fable been more acutely focused on its actual target, the cast and director could have really kicked a door with a ground-breaking approach. Ironically, the director instead demands way too much patience for an over-simplified gag in the end to make her real point.
Bodies, Bodies, Bodies is rated R for violence, bloody images, drug use, sexual references, pervasive language, and gratuitous fake honesty. Bodies, Bodies, Bodies is playing in theaters.
This is Mark Harrington for KPCW’s Friday Film Review.