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Bodies Bodies Bodies Movie Review

Halina Reijn’s hair-raising feature revolves around a group of friends. Bodies, Bodies, Bodies is a poisonous brew.

They would, of course, passionately disagree with that assessment. These characters are so well-drawn that I can hear them now. David (Pete Davidson), the perennially high pal, would be defensive: “What do you mean by toxic?” “Did you get it from Twitter?” Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), his girlfriend, who can’t go 30 seconds without reminding everyone she’s an actor, would correct him: “I’m not poisonous, I’m an empath.” “I mean… we have done toxic things,” Alice (Rachel Sennott), the legitimately emotional one, would be more understanding: “I mean… we have done toxic things.” Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), the type-A who defines herself by her distinctions from her peers, would scoff. Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), a recovering addict who is terrible at keeping up with the group chat, would smile coyly if she reacted at all.

Their protests would not change the fact that the assertion was true. These privileged young adults, more than anything else tied to each other by shared history, are not decent to themselves — much alone to each other. That much becomes evident when they all convene at David’s secluded vacation home on the eve of a hurricane. What begins as a noisy, bacchanalian holiday gradually transforms into a scary backdrop against which Reijn performs a deft examination of root-bound friendships, hyper-individualism, and treachery in the digital age.

Bodies, Bodies, Bodies is the Dutch actress’s second feature-length directorial debut. Her first, Instinct (2019), followed an illegal relationship between a therapist and the jailed sex offender assigned to her. That film, which went on to be the Netherlands’ Oscar submission for 2020, highlighted Reijn’s interest in doing meticulous psychological character analyses. In Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, which is not a standard slasher thriller, she emphasizes those predilections. Reijn flips the genre, employing its tragic stakes and clichés to grasp the limits and repercussions of these characters’ egos. Their horrible behavior is the true menace.

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This A24 publication might easily be interpreted as a shallow skewering of younger millennials and Gen Z members. Although Bodies Bodies Bodies takes a few shots at a certain type of chronically online 20-something, it makes a concerted attempt to avoid patronizing. Sarah DeLappe, whose play The Wolves was a Pulitzer nominee in 2017, has written a screenplay (based on a story by “Cat Person” author Kristen Roupenian) that, for all of its predictability, shows a sensitivity to the issues baked into the ridiculousness of one’s early twenties. The characters may be easy to dislike due to the superficial manner in which they display their fears, but it doesn’t make what essentially bothers them any less true.

Bodies, Bodies, Bodies begins with Stenberg’s Sophie kissing her new girlfriend, Bee (Maria Bakalova of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm). When Sophie responds, “I love you,” their heated moment turns melancholy. The picture switches to the two lovers in a car after her confession is met with silence. Bee, a shy person whose working-class upbringing varies from Sophie and her friends’ affluent ones, is worried as they drive to David’s house for this party. Sophie’s attempts to calm her down — variants on “Don’t worry, everyone will love you” — are unsettling.

When the couple arrives at the luxurious mansion, which is surrounded by acres of beautiful woodland, they go straight to the pool, where Sophie’s friends are holding a breath-holding contest. The moment is one of the most memorable in Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, showing DP Jasper Wolf’s sensual camerawork. We see Jordan, Alice, Emma, David, and Greg (Lee Pace), Alice’s 40-year-old Tinder lover, hanging in the water, their bodies floating against a textured celadon blue background, as they individually slowly emerge to greet Sophie and Bee.

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Following that are scenes that establish the distinctly millennial/Gen Z milieu and each character’s function in the friend circle. David and Emma’s relationship is marred by dishonesty and a stifled sexual life. Jordan has ill will for Sophie, the kind reserved for those who have mismanaged our hearts. Everyone seems to despise Alice, a podcast host who is equal parts empathetic to those around her and clueless to her circumstances. Greg, her boyfriend, appears to be there for a good time.

The storm begins soon after Sophie and Bee arrive, causing the group to seek shelter inside. They crack open a bottle of champagne, swallow shots, and snort lines of coke. Sophie, whose recent departure is being blamed on a spell in recovery, does not take part. When drinking loses its allure, the gang decides to play their favorite game – a warped version of Mafia that frequently results in sad admissions and tears (usually from Emma, the empathic actor). In their version of the game, one person is selected as the killer, while the others hide. After committing a “murder,” the player who discovers the body must cry “bodies, bodies, bodies!” All of the participants gather and vote on the suspected murderer.

The first round results in a barrage of accusations and admissions, leaving David enraged and Emma in tears. Soon after, a neck is slit, triggering a delusional and dangerous chain of events. Fans of the genre may struggle to fully buy into the slasher intrigue of Bodies Bodies Bodies, but it’s difficult to ignore the brilliance of the performances. Sennott, who played Danielle in Emma Seligman’s brilliantly claustrophobic Shiva Baby, distinguishes herself with her perfect comedic timing and terrifying dramatic swerves. Herrold and Stenberg also hold their own, deftly navigating their characters’ tangled relationship through body language and fleeting looks.

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Reijn uses several longer takes to allow the actors to dive into the details of their personalities and lend a touch of edge to the horror moments. This, combined with the shaky iPhone illumination (the power goes off immediately), makes parts of Bodies Bodies Bodies convincingly terrifying. These nuances can help the film when the screenplay is a little wobbly. The witty dialogue and humor emphasizing internet talk (for example, the misuse and flattening of clinical words) provide easy laughs, but it’s difficult not to cringe at some trite and sensationalistic lines that don’t serve character development or storyline.

Bodies, Bodies, Bodies does not yet have an official release date, but it would undoubtedly make a terrific summer film. According to the raucous reception it received during its SXSW premiere, its great entertainment value is amplified in the company of others.

Bodies Bodies Bodies Movie Review
Bodies Bodies Bodies Movie Review


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