Halina Reijn’s Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) is a competently executed debut film, driven by entertaining roles across the entire ensemble. The X factor’s missing, though; despite the vast list of twists on hand, this film orbits far from A24’s most arresting projects.
A friend of mine once told me that there’s always a good reason to party – even when it’s as disputable as, let’s say, the first Wednesday of the week. Whatever works, right?
For a bunch of rich kids who play the honorable role of cannon fodder in Halina Rejin’s debut Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022), an incoming tornado constitutes enough of a party cause. So, they decide to lock themselves up in a spacious mansion and remain coked up until any contact with the outer world – remember, reception’s never an ally in horror movies – can be established.
The fateful party begins with the arrival of Sophie (Amanda Stenberg), for whom the reunion with the group of her bratty friends immediately turns into a black sheep situation. We don’t know the reasons yet, but her appearance creates tension, which spills over to Bee (Maria Bakalova). Under false pretenses to introduce the new girlfriend, Sophie shields herself from the criticism, but Bee’s position – a stranger among triggered Millennials – doesn’t bode well.
Reijn sets up the stage with patience and relies on humor to mask the little plot progress we see in the first half of Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022). That’s fine, for the cast carries the spectacle with admirable confidence. Having the likes of Pete Davidson on board, one can’t go wrong with cracking jokes, but it’s actually Rachel Sennott’s Alice, the dumbest in the group (also the most fun one, too), who steals the show.
Most of this slow pre-cooking time provides insights into each one of the spoilt bunch. The facade is deep-bass songs blasting the speakers, white lines on the table, liquor bottles, and doing weird shit. Look closer, and imprints of the past begin to resurface, old wounds open up, and new ones begin to form – like the beef between the self-absorbed host David (Pete Davidson) and Alice’s hot ex-vet boyfriend, Greg (Lee Pace).
For Reijn, this is an excellent opportunity to establish prejudices, and she undeniably succeeds at this exercise. By the time the titular party game of looking for a killer turns into an actual survival competition, we have our theories, favorites, and ostracisms.
As the story development happens, there are two main pillars of Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022): criticism of the wealthy classes and change in behavioral patterns in people when put in a stressful situation. Needless to say, both elements of Reijn’s narrative have been heavily recycled in the past.
Even lately – for reasons such as the growing economic differences around the world – badmouthing the elites has been trendy in film and television. HBO’s White Lotus (2019-) did precisely that for the masses; Ruben Östlund served a nauseating cocktail on board The Triangle of Sadness (2022) that’s been far more artsy. The list goes on. Through means of mockery, exaggeration, and displaying opportunism at its finest, the effort to voice mass discontent on account of rich show-offs became intensified.
Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) aspires to this league too. Snobbish characters put in appearances, and it’s hard to root for any of them after the first hour of posh gibberish coming out of their mouths. However, they’re not the dumb cannon fodder types. Reijn gives each character a certain degree of cunning, quickly leading to a blame game. Throughout just one night, each person will become the target, the hunter, and the hunted, and Reijn goes “all in.” Some of the twists are actually brilliant – like the build-up to Greg’s past. In these moments, Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) can be disarmingly absorbing.
In its pursuit after gibing at the spoilt riches, though, Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) catches slumps, particularly in its second half. The narrative becomes repetitive, with twists feeling more forced than inventive. While that might have been the goal – to shift the mood – Reijn isn’t ready to pull off a complete overhaul of pace and form like Gaspar Noé did in Climax (2019), nor does she control the film with the precision of more experienced filmmakers. Consequently, the film’s second half finds the actors hitting brick walls in their attempts to find more than what they’ve already done earlier.
Eventually, something’s missing. Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) cannot be denied its own style – intentionally chaotic like its subjects, feverish and packed with twists and turns. But the formula wears off because the depth just isn’t there. Nonetheless, Halina Reijn remains one talented filmmaker to observe.