'Bodies Bodies Bodies': A Surprisingly Insightful Social Satire
Based on the marketing for Bodies Bodies Bodies, you would be forgiven if you thought this film was going to be a slasher film or a comedy that panders to Gen-Z. This is likely by design, as the film's distributor, A24 has a history of slightly misadvertisting their films in a way that will encourage a wider audience to see their films. While the marketing isn't wholly dishonest, it definitely plays up the horror elements for the trailers. The actual film is more of a black comedy, and satirizes Gen-Z in a rather insightful way. It may not be the deepest or subtlest commentary, but it works far better than I would have expected. The film might not be the bloody, scarefest that the trailers promise, but it is an entertaining whodunit that examines themes of self-obsession, the facades we put up for ourselves, and the disconnection between us as humans in a surprisingly rich way.
The film is rather straightforward in terms of plot, but this isn't a bad thing in the slightest. Its simple premise helps highlight the bigger themes it is wrestling with nicely, and allows the film's message to come across rather clearly. The film follows a group of friends as they gather to hold a hurricane party at a mansion owned by the parents of one of the friends. Once the party gets started, the group decides to play a game of Bodies Bodies Bodies, a game similar to Mafia or Werewolf. But when one of the friends is mysteriously murdered for real, the friends find themselves trying to figure out who the killer is, and confront their issues with each other in the process.
I would argue that the film's script is quite solid, and much of that is due to screenwriter Sarah DeLappe's innate ability to capture complex relationships so well. She previously showed her skill in this area with her successful play The Wolves, which explores the dynamics of a high school soccer team. The relationships between the friends in Bodies Bodies Bodies is fascinating as there is clearly some tension between them, but it is ignored by them since they don't want to bring down the mood of the party. It's not until the first murder that they begin to air out their grievances. This builds to a memorable scene in the film's third act that illustrates so much of what the film is trying to say so well. In this scene, four of the friends confront each other about various secrets they have been keeping from each other, as well as issues they have with each other. Parts of this scene can be seen in the trailer, and in that context, gives the idea that the film would be pandering to Gen-Z due to some of the terminology being used. Words like "toxic", "triggered", and "unhinged" are used throughout the scene, which is a little distracting, but it serves a much richer point. It allows the characters to confront each other, but quite a bit of what they are saying feels like they are just parroting things they saw online. It allows them to hit each other hard while appearing smart and in the right, but it also sounds a bit shallow and defensive from an audience's perspective. While the scene is meant to underline the stereotype of how Gen-Z is terminally online, this can be applied to any generation. Obviously the vernacular and certain minor details might be different, but the point stands. Regardless of what generation you belong to, the way we argue often is counterproductive, as most people just want to be right and sound as smart as possible, even if they are just quoting something random they saw on the internet or in a book. They may just be using loaded terms to get a reaction and win the argument, but when we take a step back to see what they are saying, it might not add up.
The film also does a great job of taking a look at self-obsession, specifically through the lens of Gen-Z. Again, many of the points the film makes can be applied to other generations with a few tweaks, but the film's satire does feel more pointed towards Gen-Z. Specifically, the film takes a look at the image of ourselves that we build up and put out to everyone else, and what happens when the facade is stripped away. The film showcases this through the power and cell reception being knocked out near the end of the first act. Once this happens, there is no way for the characters to really hide their secrets or animosities toward each other, and we see them for who they really are. As humans, we tend to worry about what others think, and want to put forth the best version of ourselves out in the world. For some, this may just involve stretching the truth, for others, this might involve outright lying about certain things, and for others, it may be emphasizing certain characteristics to distract from some of their less-than-desirable qualities. The film digs into this over the course of the runtime, and it comes to a head in the confrontation scene that I previously mentioned. The facades these characters have built for themselves are torn down in this scene, and we see what happens when they are forced to deal with reality in a rather potent way.
The film does such a great job of keeping the audience on their toes, which partially comes from DeLappe's screenplay, but it is also due to the unsettling atmosphere that director Halina Reijn creates. Setting the film against the backdrop of a terrible storm helps with this, as does the tension amongst the characters. Once we arrive at the mansion, there is a sense of distrust felt towards these characters, as they all feel a little too good to be true. This is only magnified once the murders start occuring, and the film takes many twists and turns that keeps you guessing. It all leads to the film's surprising ending, which punctuates the larger points the film is making, and might shock some audiences. It ends with a big twist that is pretty well-played, and punctuates the larger points the film is making in a major way.
One of the film's biggest draws for me was its ensemble cast, which is made up of some of our finest up and coming actors. I was particularly impressed by both Amandla Stenberg and Maria Bakalova, who play Sophie and Bee, respectively. They both act as a foil for each other, with Bakalova giving a more quiet and reserved performance, and Stenberg giving a more outgoing and full-bodied one. Bakalova surprised me given that this role is a far cry from her Oscar Nominated breakout performance in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, but she is still quite good. She plays the outsider archetype well, and finds power in the character's quietness. Stenberg is simply fantastic in this film, and has such a strong presence from the film's opening moments. She has definitely been getting better and better over the past few years, and I am positive that this will only continue with time. I was also impressed by Chase Sui Wonders and Myha'la Herrold, both of whom I wasn't too familiar with prior to the film. Wonders does a great job of playing up the artifice of her character, while Herrold captures her character's complexities in an amazing way. I am very excited to see what both of them do next, as they are both so fascinating in this film. Perhaps the film's biggest standout is Rachel Sennott, who is quickly proving herself to be one of our finest young actors. She gave one of my favorite performances of last year in Shiva Baby, where her character is constantly finding herself in uncomfortable situations. In Bodies Bodies Bodies, she gets to have some fun with the character, and inhabits her so fully. She feels so genuine, and is so dialed in to what the film is asking of her. She also gets some of the film's funniest lines and is one of the most memorable characters in the whole film. It's great to see her show her range in this film, and I hope we get to see more of her in the future. As for the guys, Pete Davidson is mostly just playing the same character he always plays, but he doesn't overdo it and feels a bit more grounded. Lee Pace, on the other hand, is playing a bit of a different character than usual, and nails his easy-going nature. Pace is another major standout of the film, as he is quite funny throughout the film, and leaves a big impact on it. The ensemble as a whole is rather strong, and everyone gets a chance to shine. Everyone is just so well-cast, and they all work together so nicely.
I enjoyed the film's use of shadows and darkness, as most of the film takes place in the dark. The use of flashlights and headlamps as the primary source of light for much of the film is well-executed, and helps give the film some added mystique. Probably my favorite visual motif is the glow sticks that Rachel Sennott's character wears, and how they shine in the darkness. The neon colors are so eye-catching, and stand out so well. It may be relatively minor in the grand scheme of the film, but it really caught my attention. The film doesn't do too much on a technical level that just floors me, but I did appreciate some of the little touches it makes.
My only real complaints towards the film is that I felt it could have gone deeper. It makes some great points throughout, but I kind of wish that it had a little more depth in certain areas. I can't complain too much, though, as the commentary is stronger than I was expecting. In addition, the film does leave a few stones unturned that could have added to some of the film's conflict and tension, but I can forgive this as the film still does a fine job of delivering on those elements. Beyond that, I have some nitpicks here and there, but they don't take away from the film too much.
Bodies Bodies Bodies might not be what most audiences would have expected based on how it was advertised, but it is still a very intriguing satire that takes a whodunit mystery and injects it with elements of dark comedy. If you go into this film expecting a slasher, you will be sorely disappointed, as there isn't as much blood or menace in this film as one might think. The more I sit with it, the more I appreciate it, and the film does have a rewatchable quality to it that has me thinking I'll be checking it out again in the near future. It may not be the sharpest or the deepest commentary on Gen-Z, but it is still rather solid as a whole. It might disappoint some viewers, but for those who go in just wanting to have a fun time will likely enjoy themselves, and might be pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns it takes.