Body movie review: lying lies and the lying women who tell them

Body red light

Women’s friendships in dangerous situations are not something we see a lot of onscreen. But this ends up not really being about the women at all.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I should have known better than to even get my hopes up. At first I thought: hey, a suspense thriller about three young women who find themselves in trouble, and their friendship challenged, when Something Bad happens? Cool. Women’s friendships in dangerous situations are not something we see a lot of onscreen. But the writing-directing team of Dan Berk and Robert Olsen appear to have taken their supposition about how women might behave in their scenario from misogynist Internet trolls. Body is, in the meta sense, about the things that women (allegedly) do that scare men, and not so much about the female characters here themselves.

Body opens with a voiceover of a woman’s breathless 911 call about “blood everywhere,” and then jumps back to pals Holly (Helen Rogers), Cali (Alexandra Turshen: Boy Meets Girl), and Mel (Lauren Molina: Martha Marcy May Marlene) hanging out on Christmas Eve. They’re bored, but Cali has an idea: why don’t they go to her uncle’s house? The place is a huge mansion crammed with booze and fun toys, and Cali knows for a fact that her uncle is away for the holidays. So off they go to their own little house party, getting in with the spare key that Cali knows where to find hidden (no, they don’t have permission to invade). You can probably already guess the first complication of their misadventure, and probably the second one, too. Suffice to say that there does indeed come a moment when there is blood everywhere, and even before the women get to the point of making an emergency phone call, we know that whatever they say to the cops, it’s going to have to overcome the fact that they’re not supposed to be in this house in the first place. Whatever they tell the cops will have to make their own crime seem insignificant by comparison.

After much debate over the right thing to do, the women construct an elaborate lie in preparation for that 911 call. The whole film, in fact, seems constructed to set up a situation in which it seems, you know, reasonable to tell this lie. “This is the responsible thing to do,” Cali insists, “if you think about it.” (She has already been posited as the dumbest of the three, and now she becomes the evil conniving bitch.) And here is the insidious thing about Body: if it were three men in this situation, they would also have to concoct a story for the police, and they would argue among themselves about what was the right thing to do, and whether they could get away with it, and what the ramifications of either getting caught or getting away with it would be. But no lie they could tell would be a lie that men in the real world are actually constantly accused of telling, all the time, presumably to get out of a situation that is inconvenient or embarrassing. Their lie would be a desperate fantasy, the stuff of, er, horror movies. Their lie would not be one that, it is wrongly assumed, is told by real men all the time. And the movie doesn’t appear to have any awareness of how dangerous this is.

I had been hoping that Body was going to offer some psychological insight into its women characters. Instead, it seems to want to justify a misapprehension about women’s psychology for the purposes of terrifying the men watching. Maybe it even works on that level. Not for me, though.

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