Is it liberating satire to watch caricature characters in “Bodies Bodies Bodies” get scolded and mutilated because they are privileged and self-obsessed? Or is it unclever “cringe” comedy that punches down at the follies of today’s youth, simply because they have different follies than other generations? What I’m asking is, can we do a “Bodies Bodies Bodies” where it’s a bunch of Boomers getting whacked while playing whatever their party game of choice was? Presumably “Murder the Planet.”
Setting aside the somewhat muddled social, media, and social media commentaries, this cocaine-fueled game of “Clue” is very nearly exceptional. Don’t fall for any hype about script “twists” and what you’ll find is a wicked, stylish little thriller punctuated with a few gut-busting laughs and a clear demonstration that we, as a people, have failed Lee Pace. He is a treasure, and we hath too often squandered him.
Director Halina Reijn and writer Sarah DeLappe, working from a story by Kirsten Roupenian (of “Cat Person” fame/infamy), center the relationship of Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and her newish girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova). Sophie is semi-fresh outta rehab, and Bee is semi-fresh to…interacting with humans? The couple attend a mansion-set house party intentionally timed to a hurricane, as nihilistic youth are wont to do. It is thrown by David (Pete Davidson), who clearly should have had the fictional last name “Peterson.” David and his girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) are on the rocks. Alice (Rachel Sennott) brought her Tinder boyfriend, Greg (Lee Pace). Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) flew solo, unless you count her copious amount of unchecked emotional baggage.
As the title and trailers foretold, a parlor game of “Bodies Bodies Bodies” unfolds. The game is like Werewolf or Secret Hitler, which sounds like a euphemism for Twitter bots. A pretend game of murder-cat and victim-mouse soon produces a very real body count. This mostly happens in the dark. Well, it happens with no electricity but plenty of glowsticks. This is an A24 movie, after all. The whodunnit moves frantically until stalling precisely when it should sprint. This is because the central conceit around which all of this hinges renders an actual climax impossible. Can’t say more…because spoilers. The almost-certainly divisive final reveal is more clever-adjacent than actually clever. It’s cleverish, clever-esque, or whatever term should actually be used to describe Christopher Nolan movies.
Sennott and Pace get straight As for their ability to navigate the cheeky vibe. The rest of the cast alternate between nailing and flubbing key moments, with none done any favors by the film’s determination to never let them interact with each other for too long. Readers, when I tell you that you will want another hour of everyone just being obnoxious, catty dillweeds to each other while Lee Pace goes full Lebowski, you may doubt me. But you will. Oh, how you will.
Maybe this is the singular crack that very nearly shatters the whole illusion. Because “Bodies Bodies Bodies” only seems to give us highlights of contentious conversations, it feels unfair. Not to the “twist,” which remains quite guessable. It feels unfair to the tone and atmosphere, to the borderline salient subtext, to the flirtation with meaningful satire. As a “killer in the house” horror-comedy, these triplicate bodies are more than sufficient. It simply feels like it was knocking on the door of more.
Grade = B-
Other Critical Voices to Consider
K. Austin Collins at Rolling Stone says “It’s like the movie has amnesia for its own premise or, maybe more accurately, like one of the project’s handful of subsequent writers simply copy/pasted those jokes into an idea that wasn’t necessarily crying out for them.”
Kristy Puchko at Mashable says “We, the audience removed from the chaos onscreen and perhaps also from this age of self-discovery, are welcomed into the psychological carnage, emotional mayhem, and literal murder of these privileged, educated, rich, and nonetheless clueless young people as they clumsily collide into wounding realizations…and weapons.”
MontiLee Stormer at Movie Reelist says “While also chock full of buzzwords like ‘gaslighting’ and ‘allyship,’ it highlights the lack of basic communication. No one knows how to talk to each other without the mask of TedTalks and blinding inebriation.