When we want our children to understand the year 2022, we will show them Bodies Bodies Bodies. The latest release from A24 and director Halina Reijn can be neatly tucked into a 2022 time capsule, next to the $7 gas prices, the cast of Euphoria, and Beyonce’s Renaissance.
Bodies Bodies Bodies offers a new take on the classic whodunnit premise: a group of rich friends party in a remote mansion until their Grey Goose shots are interrupted by a murder. Shellacked fingers are pointed, inevitable groupthink and fear ensues. In this case, the story begins when Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), newly sober, brings her new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova) to her best friend David’s (Pete Davidson) parents’ mansion for a weekend trip with her friends she hasn’t seen since she went to rehab: Jordan (Myha'la Herrold), whom she has clear sexual tension with, self-described “ally” Alice (Rachel Sennott), David’s girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) and Alice’s Tinder date Greg (Lee Pace).
Things are awkward; Sophie didn’t respond in the group chat to say she was coming, and the group is icy toward Bee. Nevertheless, everyone take shots poolside and bring the party inside when a hurricane hits. Sophie suggests they play “bodies bodies bodies,” a version of the game Mafia, where everyone has to figure out who the “killer is.” Things goes awry when David ends up with this throat slashed by a sword. The power goes out and with only cell phones as flashlights, the remaining friends devolve into accusations that run the gambit of “you’re toxic,” to “you’re the killer.” It ends in a delicious twist that reveals more about our generation than any line about gaslighting does.
Critics are calling it Gen Z’s answer to the masterpiece Scream, but it feels more similar to generation-capturing works like Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring (2013), with its Sleigh Bells and M.I.A. soundtrack, or 2011’s Project X, the found footage claustrophobic party film featuring a lot of Kid Cudi and Tyler the Creator, with a little bit of beloved horror tropes thrown in, like lesbian and bisexual women being crazy. (“Check her texts,” are one character’s last words.) Bodies Bodies Bodies captures the horniness of post-lockdown summers, the enthusiasm of an audience that cheers for two women making out with tongue on screen in a way that’s not for the male gaze, young people’s psychobabble internetspeak, the need for Xanax (because murder mysteries are stressful), and party scenes that are as aspirational as they are embarrassing. The bourbon-soaked cherry on top? “Hot Girl,” a Charli XCX anthem written for the film to capture the zeitgeist started by Megan Thee Stallion. Everything is so of the moment that it feels like it has an inside joke with its audience, one where Pete Davidson plays himself: “I look like I f*ck,” he tells Sophie.
All of this to say, watching Bodies Bodies Bodies in five years will have the same effect as watching Black Panther now, and gasping when they make a “What are those?” joke about a pair of sandals. It’s not supposed to age; it’s supposed to be devoured. The story is by Kristen Roupenian of New Yorker short story “Cat Person” infamy, another work that hits you between the eyes in its simultaneous cringe and accuracy for how people are. (It underwent a significant rewrite by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sarah DeLappe.) The best lines of Bodies Bodies Bodies hit like the sizzle of a fry pan, the hot oil sputtering up to splash you in the eye; they’re funny because you feel a little too seen.
Alice is as upset that her friends hate-listen to her podcast, whose premise is “hanging out with your smartest and funniest friend,” as she is that her Tinder date is murdered. “A podcast takes a lot of work!” she screams in one of the funniest exchanges of the film. “You have to make a Google calendar!” Sennott is a standout for her careful balance of the absurd and the earnest, bringing a necessary levity to more serious lines, and gravity to the more ridiculous ones.
While a lot of 2022 media tries so desperately to be current and telegraph “wokeness” that it comes off like Joe Biden trying to make conversation at the club, Bodies Bodies Bodies captures how people actually talk — or how the worst versions of us talk. It does so not to satirize or even to wink-and-nudge its audience, but to capture the inanity of a moment where we spend all our time on Twitter and TikTok, and would realistically require a Xanax to get through a murder mystery.
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