Body Shots (1999)
Directed by Michael Cristofer
Cast: Amanda Peet, Sean Patrick Flanery, Tara Reid, Jerry O'Connell, Ron Livingston, Brad Rowe, Emily Proctor, Sybil Temchen.
1999 99 minutes
Rated: (for violence, profanity, sex-related talk, sex, nudity, and a rape).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 23, 1999.
"There are movies that define every decade," declares the official poster for Michael Cristofer's youthful look at sex and love in the '90s, "Body Shots." The marketing team at its studio, New Line Cinemas, sure got that right, because "Body Shots" is one of those "serious"-minded films about a group of self-absorbed twentysomethings--call it yet another entry in this decade's self-made genre of "Gen-X Whiners."
The movie opens with Rick (Sean Patrick Flanery) waking up in the bed of Jane (Amanda Peet). After a club night full of alcohol, they can't quite remember what went on, and then Rick asks if she has any Tylenol. They abruptly are disturbed by a knock on the door at 4:35 a.m., which is coming from Jane's friend, Sara (Tara Reid). Bleeding from the forehead and with a busted lip, she claims that Michael (Jerry O'Connell), a hotshot football player, raped her. Turning back the clock by about twenty hours, we meet all eight major characters, which also include stripper-by-night Whitney (Emily Proctor), lonely Emma (Sybil Temchen), straight-arrow Shawn (Brad Rowe), and dorky, kinky Trent (Ron Livingston), as they talk into the camera, pseudo-documentary style, about whatever is on their minds (read: sex, sex, and more sex). As night falls on their shallow lives in L.A., all eight arrive at a night club for some dancing, drinks, and fun, and each one ends up coming into sexual contact with another before the night is over. Midway through, the morning after comes around, and the picture quickly takes a sharp turn for the worst, as it turns into a sort of made-for-TV "message" movie on date rape, but with a hint of explicit sex for good measure.
For its opening half-hour, "Body Shots" was an enthralling, sexually frank film that got much of its interest from its inventive style, in which the characters talk to the camera in whatever setting they tend to be in, as if it is what is going on in their heads. The discussions on such topics as oral sex, love, and the importance of a meaningful relationship, seemed to be setting itself up for a meaningful motion picture that captured the realism of a certain spectrum of twentysomethings.
That's when things began to severely irritate me. The confessions to the camera suddenly became outrageously inane ("Sex without love equals violence," says Shawn in pure "Afterschool Special" mode), the plotting grew repetitive and too stylish for its own good, and the characters began to unveil themselves to be alarmingly shallow individuals who turn out not to hold any insight whatsoever into people of the so-called X and Y generations.
That's when the matter of the rape arises, at around the 50-minute mark. Sara goes to the hospital to be treated, and presses charges on Michael. Through an annoying, pointless plot device that is akin to Kurosawa's "Rashomon," Michael tells his side of what happened between Sara and himself the night before, and flashbacks ensue. Then it's Sara's turn to tell the "truth," and we visually see what happened from her point-of-view. Before the trial even begins, Sara, Michael, and their six friends around them question if maybe their memories were foggy from being drunk. After all, Michael can't quite recall what happened, now that he thinks about it, and there was that one isolated incident from the past where Sara had a blackout from alcohol poisoning. This "He-Said/She Said" turn-of-events doesn't work for a second, since we as an audience know that alcohol was definitely part of the equation, and whatever did happen only occurred because they immaturely brought it upon themselves. Because of this, the resolution is an inevitable disappointment, and the pair of drug-out flashbacks completely inconsequential.
In the performance department, first-time feature film director Michael Cristofer (HBO's "Gia") has acquired a slew of promising and talented young Hollywood players who have got to be more intelligent than the vapid characters they inhabit. Faring most effectively are Tara Reid ("American Pie"), who handles a few difficult scenes with impressive aplomb; Brad Rowe ("Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss"), as the somewhat introverted one who nonetheless has a rough sexual encounter with Emma; and Sybil Temchen, as Emma, who plays the only one written with any sort of believability or care.
"Body Shots" would like--no, make that love--to stand as an important film for the '90s generation, but it makes so many fatal missteps along the way that, by the last twenty minutes, it was literally a struggle to watch the remainder of the film. Clumsy and self-important, "Body Shots" forces you to spend 99 minutes with a group of people you wouldn't be able to stand in real-life, much less on a movie screen in a theater. The pits.
©1999 by Dustin Putman