The kids are not alright. Or, at least, that’s one takeaway from Halina Reijn’s smart second feature Bodies Bodies Bodies. Over a stormy weekend in a suburban mansion, seven new and old friends (and frenemies) play a murder-mystery game. When one of them ends up dead, everyone is a potential suspect as paranoia and inebriation lead to revelations of secrets and lies. It may sound like a familiar premise but I guarantee you haven’t seen this movie before.
Somewhere between a slasher, a whodunnit and an R-rated teen comedy, Bodies Bodies Bodies skewers and satirises uber-rich Gen Z-ers: from their attempts to distance themselves from their privilege, to their slang and outsized egos. And while the verbiage involved in that criticism occasionally feels contrived, every word is carefully chosen so that the target of this satire is clear.
And that target encompasses David (Pete Davidson), whose family owns the house, his actress girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), vapid podcaster Alice (Rachel Sennott), her older boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace), mysterious Jordan (Myha'la Herrold), newly sober Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), and her shy girlfriend Bee (Borat 2 breakout Maria Bakalova), who struggles to connect with the wealthy group.
The film zeroes in on the lessons the next generation of one percenters have learned from their parents, their peers and the internet: how to get what you want; how to garner sympathy; how to cast blame onto others; and how to survive even that comes at the price of someone else. So if these lines sound inauthentic or artificial, that’s because they are. Much of the film’s violence is obscured or off-screen, but the verbal sparring proves to be even more calculated and cruel. A war of words can be just as damaging as physical fights, especially against those who know how to hurt you most.
Bee and Sophie are our entry points into the narrative, and the casual way in which the film treats their queerness is rather delightful. It’s rendered no differently than if a heterosexual couple were at the film’s center, all while remaining precise and true in language, costuming, and performance. The ensemble is dynamic, with Herrold and Sennott stealing scenes, and Bakalova and Stenberg providing tenderness as their relationship shifts over the course of the night.
The future of the murder-mystery looks bright with movies as bold and boundary-breaking as this
By following her directorial debut Instinct, a deeply serious Dutch drama about a therapist who falls in love with her violent patient, with this often laugh-out-loud horror-comedy, Reijn flaunts her range as a storyteller. What connects her two films is a distinct appreciation for uniquely messy characters.
With Knives Out 2, See How They Run and Death on the Nile all bringing murder most foul to the big screen this year, the whodunnit is fully back in vogue. While there will likely be comparisons made between all four films, Bodies Bodies Bodies is trying something new with it. To say more would spoil its delicious finale, but the future of this genre looks bright with movies as bold and boundary-breaking as this.
In US theaters now. In UK cinemas Sep 9.