In a new series, we’re celebrating the films we loved that aren’t likely to dominate the awards race. Over the new few weeks, our writers make passionate arguments for the performances and craft that stood out to them, from blockbusters to arthouse and everything in between.
I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but I do know one thing for certain in this life: TikTok will be the death of us all. I know this through my friends, my family, and all my favourite strangers on the internet, and above all else I know this because should-be Oscar nominee Pete Davidson told me so in Bodies Bodies Bodies.
Halina Rejin’s satirical Gen-Z slasher promises to show the SNL star’s “darker side” but also finally lets the man confirm, in plain words, what the internet has been whispering about him for the last five to 10 years: This guy looks like he fucks. To say that, about yourself, with a straight face – as Davidson does in Bodies Bodies Bodies – demands a miraculous display of focus and confidence. It is Davidson’s crowning moment of his career.
Will he be nominated for an Oscar? Of course not. Should he be nominated for an Oscar? It depends what you want from the Oscars. If you are happy with the status quo and the antiquated definitions of what is “good” in Hollywood, then no. But if you’ve spent any time on the internet in the last decade, fancy a laugh, fancy a change, or just fancy fucking stuff up for people who don’t know what BDE means, Pete Davidson’s work in Bodies Bodies Bodies is the perfect place to start.
Much of the comedian and actor’s notoriety in recent years has come from off-screen reports about his love life, including (but almost definitely not limited to) relationships with Ariana Grande, Kate Beckinsale, Margaret Qualley, and, of course, a post-Kanye West Kim Kardashian (the pair were together for the amount of time it takes to grow a child).
This romantic prowess is relevant in the context of Bodies Bodies Bodies, as Davidson plays David, an über-rich teen hosting his friends in his parents’ Georgian manor house in Chappaqua, New York, over a hurricane weekend. He is defined by his relationships to the girls he’s invited – and one girl’s recent Tinder match she brought along – for the trip. David berates his girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) when she accuses him of gaslighting her: “What’s next, are you going to call me a narcissist?” he spits, before sarcastically congratulating his loved one for having a Twitter account.
His insecurity as the man of the house is amplified by Greg (Lee Pace), the uninvited, weirdly attractive and older extra who’s just there for a good time and doesn’t even realise the impact he has on everyone, but most of all on David. As the girls gasp and giggle when Greg slices open a bottle of expensive champagne with David’s dad’s kukri (which David refers to as a “Gurkha sword”) a jaded Davidson refuses to smile, somehow managing a death stare in a half-open mouth, teeth jutting in protest, and bloodshot eyes demanding his reputation restored.
How dare Greg infiltrate this sacred space where David is king? Who would possibly challenge, deliberately or otherwise, the fuckability of this man? In real life, Davidson mystifies the tabloids with his coterie of beautiful women – and people of all genders who hungrily follow his exploits like he was leading the way towards a tax-free society – so to play out a possible threat to this triumphant against-the-odds sex appeal with as much indignation and bitterness as Davidson-as-David does? It’s not exactly meta, but don’t ignore the itch to double check on Wikipedia once the credits roll.
In every one of his Serious Acting roles to date, Davidson has slowly been shedding any pretence of character to trust that his innate and truly unbelievable appeal is more powerful than anything on the page. Davidson can be serious and impressive, as in the close-to-home Judd Apatow comedy The King of Staten Island, more than slightly based on Davidson’s own life and family, but it is so much funnier when the lines between actor and character begin to blur even further, and what remains is Pete Davidson in all his mercurial charm.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is built around Davidson. Somehow alongside the likes of Shiva Baby’s Rachel Sennott hamming up her performance to excruciating but rewarding heights, Davidson’s more deadpan dissatisfaction with the hand he’s been dealt sets up the dominoes just waiting to fall. “Hey fuckface,” he politely interrupts as Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova) are hooking up, instead of feigning shock at walking in on two lovers sharing an intimate moment. “I just look like I fuck,” he reminds Sophie while explaining why Greg does not, “That’s the vibe I like to put out.”
Davidson does such a good job of playing into this guy’s outsized ego because it is his own outsized ego – which is why David’s ultimate downfall and the reasons behind it fully cement the actor’s mesmerising skill.
For a large amount of the film’s runtime, Davidson somehow finds a way to convince the audience that he is a martyr, both the victim and the saviour of this cursed weekend getaway these horrible girls and guys are enjoying. He delivers the kind of performance that makes you miss him when he’s not on screen – not because of the maximalist energy he brings, but in his scathing line delivery which has got him so far in the world of variety and stand-up comedy. So much of comedy, of course, is about deception – manipulating a person’s emotions into believing some form of sincerity to later reveal that the reason that you laughed, or cried, or smiled, was a lie. This is exactly what Davidson does: he’s so funny and so good that he tricks you into thinking he’s stupid as a character, even though the actor knew what he was doing all along.
There is a reveal towards the end of this gratingly trendy whodunnit that negates so much of the seemingly high stakes that successfully compel you to keep watching these terrible people. With hindsight, it makes total sense that stupidity and tragedy walk merrily hand in hand in this world, but Davidson is so convincing as a paper thinly-veiled version of himself that for just one minute, it did seem possible that he was clever, maybe faultless, maybe someone to cherish and mourn after all.
But we must not forget: this is Pete Davidson. Nobody truly understands why he is so successful, so attractive to so many women, so compelling in so many different ways, despite the many dozens of articles out there that espouse his Big Dick Energy. He fucks, he brings a certain vibe, but he is not trying to do anything else! The man just wants to live! And that is why his performance in Bodies Bodies Bodies is awards-worthy. Hook, line, and sinker, he’s got us again. Even when he loses so hard, Pete Davidson is always winning.
Published 26 Jan 2023
Halina Reijn's amusing debut feature satirises Gen Z nihilism but doesn't have much to say about the pop culture stereotypes it depicts.
By Henry Bulmer
Taking inspiration from neo-noir, Matt Reeves and Greig Fraser created a brooding, impactful visual language for their take on the Caped Crusader.
Pete Davidson fictionalises his own adolescence in Judd Apatow's warmest bro comedy to date.