| art & architecture | books & cds | dance
| destinations | film | opera | television | theater | archives
Body Shots (1999)...
"There are movies that define every decade,"
according to the posters for the debut film from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Michael
Cristofer, Body Shots. To its credit, the poster does not go on to claim that this
is one of those movies. If Body Shots defines any decade, it's the cheesy 1980's of
John Hughes flicks and softcore USA Network midnight movies.
Patrick Flanery (Simply Irresistible), Tara Reid (American Pie) and a host
of other essentially interchangeable twentysomething actors, Body Shots follows
eight young people through the Los Angeles night as they fuel up on alcohol, talk frankly
about sex and eventually hook up (willingly or not). As is becoming something of a trend,
the time sequence is juggled and the point-of-view fractured, and the characters have a
tendency to address the audience directly. But anyone hoping for a dizzying, supercharged
hit of Ecstasy akin to Doug Liman's Go from earlier this year will be sorely disappointed.
The movie opens with
young lawyers in love Rick (Flanery) and Jane (Amanda Peet) in bed together, fully
clothed. As we soon learn, they are the only two of the eight main characters who did not
actually get it on the night before. When Jane's friend Sara (Reid) shows up, bruised and
sobbing and claiming to be the victim of a sexual assault, we are launched into a series
of flashbacks from the previous evening of debauchery.
throbbing synth score and blurry background effects, these flashbacks appear to have been
shot by a Miami Vice cinematographer who has spent the past 15 years stranded on a
desert island. We are introduced to the rest of the fun-loving crew, including Michael
Penorisi (Jerry O'Connell), the testosterone-poisoned football hero whom Sara claims as
her assailant. The characters dance and drink and throw around "edgy" one-liners
about blowjobs and fisting; dialogue that might once have been shocking but is now a
staple of Sunday night television on HBO's Sex in the City. The date rape is
presented in he said/she said fashion, but whether or not Sara was actually assaulted
appears a secondary concern to the filmmakers compared to whether or not the incident will
tear happy couple Rick and Jane apart.
Body Shots wants to have
it both ways - to be both a pumped-up youth-oriented sex comedy and an important film
dealing with Serious Issues. The movie is thrown hopelessly out of balance by the extended
middle section focusing on Trent (Ron Livingston), the "outrageous" free spirit
who shows up at a dance club in golf knickers and argyle socks, and might as well have the
words COMIC RELIEF tattooed across his forehead. It's a tough segue from Trent's wacky
shenanigans back to solemn date rape discourse, and Cristofer and screenwriter David
McKenna (American History X) aren't up to the challenge. The blustery
back-and-forth bickering and predetermined ambiguity make for a needlessly protracted and
wholly unsatisfying conclusion.
It's worth noting
that the film's original title was Jello Shots, before the dessert manufacturer
lodged an objection against its product being depicted as potential date rape lubricant.
It's too bad. Jello Shots is a much better title for a movie firing such
- Scott Von Doviak