'Bodies Bodies Bodies' movie review: Dark, riotously funny satire on cancel culture
At the time of its release, few critics described Bodies Bodies Bodies as a commentary on the cancel culture-obsessed Gen-Z. They are right
Some films, for me, perform the function of giving expression to a nagging thought that’s been bothering me for a long time but not in a way that affects my daily life. However, it is an issue that someone had to address at some point. The potently satirical Bodies Bodies Bodies, the English-language directorial debut of Dutch actress and filmmaker Halina Reijn, is one such example. It took me back to my college days when I was in the company of the wrong people—the ones that, despite making you feel like you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, indirectly give you a perspective on certain hitherto unexplored aspects of life. Those memories came rushing back while watching Bodies Bodies Bodies.
Have you come across people who appear to be ‘friends’ (these include ‘girlfriends’ and ‘boyfriends’) but don’t have any modicum of chemistry between them? Have you looked at them and wondered why they’re friends—or dating—in the first place? Was the bond genuine? Or was it simply a matter of liking the idea of calling someone a ‘friend’ (or a boyfriend or girlfriend)? Or what about not having a single original thought in your head? The characters in Bodies Bodies Bodies exhibit all the traits of the abovementioned group. One character brings up the authenticity of the relationship between two characters when the lady refers to another character as her ‘boyfriend’. Another character seems to be repeating things they overheard or saw online. There doesn’t seem to be a single sincere bone in their body.
The film opens with a lesbian couple who appear to be so much in love, but then again, their chemistry is suspect. One of them seems distant, even though they made out passionately a while ago. Since the film opened with these two, I thought these were the ‘main’ characters, and I was supposed to root for them. It reminded me of what the opening of Jordan Peele's Get Out did to me because, like that film, you slowly begin to realise that your perception of one or more characters is about to be challenged.
The setting is the home of a rich, spoilt brat. It starts with a party at the home of a rich, spoilt brat David (Pete Davidson)—not exactly the sort of atmosphere one finds hospitable, amiable, and comfortable—after his so-called ‘friends’ land there. One of the film’s surprises was the presence of Lee Pace because, until this point, I’ve only seen the works of the actor where he is playing intimidating characters—either an alien warlord or the head honcho of an IT company. I did not expect to see him play someone who would feel right at home in The Big Lebowski. Pace’s character Greg represents the preceding generation in a manner similar to Mathew McConaughey’s inclusion in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. While not exactly a flawless character, he appears the most sensible of the group. His uneasiness after the chaos hits the fan is all too tangible.
At the time of its release, few critics described Bodies Bodies Bodies as a commentary on the cancel culture-obsessed Gen-Z. They are right. It also seems to suggest that vapid and pseudo-woke people have always existed and that the advent of social media has just made things worse. None of the characters in Bodies Bodies Bodies possesses any quality that makes them endearing. The effect is of stumbling upon one of those annoying Twitter threads kickstarted by someone’s knee-jerk reaction—where one or more people are getting cancelled while others are throwing words like ‘gaslighting’, ‘toxic’, ‘ableist’, ‘ally’, and ‘mental health’ is so important;' but you’re not sure whether they really care about what they say.
There is a randomness to the conversations of all the characters in Bodies Bodies Bodies. They resort to similar arbitrary reactions when they’re questioned about their flaws. This exorcism of their inner demons wouldn’t have been possible if not for the murder of one of the main characters early in the film. Interestingly, this event succeeds a fake slasher game christened ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’, in which the group excitedly takes part. When one more character meets their end, the carefully manicured facade of the group is ripped apart, to devastating results, among which is a hilarious climactic twist I did not see coming.
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Pete Davidson, Rachel Sennott, Lee Pace
Director: Halina Reijn
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
Rating: 3.5/5 stars