Film Reviews


By • Apr 26th, 2002 •

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80 minutes

If Some Body were the documentary that it often resembles, a better title might be “The Mating Habits of Straight People.” I can almost hear the voice-over narration, 1950s-era Disney-nature-film style: “Having left the protection of a long-term relationship, the female human embarks on a series of exploratory encounters with other potential mates. But look out! There’s danger ahead!”

That’s basically the story, but Some Body, despite its resemblance to a documentary, is actually a fiction film about twentysomething Samantha (Stephanie Bennett) and her search for love, sex, companionship and some sense of herself. Based on some elements of actress/co-writer/producer Bennett’s own life—and even featuring some of her past likes and loves in corresponding fictional roles—Some Body aims for an in-your-face realism about relationships.

Unfortunately, despite a few flashes of hilariously frank talk about sex and a grittily realistic view of the many ways love can turn sour, Some Body finds mostly banal cliches rather than the universal truths it’s so obviously seeking. Bennett and co-writer/director Barrial used improvisational techniques with the actors and shot Some Body on digital video, which gives the film a welcome low-budget feeling of spontaneity but also sinks the dialogue and situations deep into the mundane.

Granted, the dialogue that “real people” spout when they’re in the process of breaking up, making out and creepily stalking others is usually less than Noel Coward brilliant. And I will certainly admit I’m from the school of thought that says, as Alfred Hitchcock put it so well, that movies should not be a slice of life but a slice of cake.

Still, I don’t think it’s just the plainness and clumsiness of Some Body that made it such rough going. Other filmmakers have turned those vices into virtues. And I’m not always a fan of cleverness and gloss for its own sake. I got almost as impatient watching a glossy Hollywood version of the mating game on cable (Someone Like You, with Ashley Judd, Greg Kinnear and Hugh Jackman) a week before I saw Some Body. Someone was more “entertaining” than Some Body—the leads were cuter in the Hollywood movie, they worked in a more glamorous setting (a TV talk show vs. an elementary school), the dialogue was snappier and the movie certainly looked better (downtown New York vs. semi-downscale Los Angeles, major-studio cinematography vs. low-light DV).

What both movies shared, despite their different kinds of “sophistication,” was a rather maddening oversimplification of their female leads’ motivations and journeys. Ashley Judd’s character in Someone is dumped by Greg Kinnear and becomes obsessed with the idea that men are “bulls” who are always looking for a “new cow” to screw, while disdaining the “old cow” that they have already serviced. I won’t say much more except to note that both Hugh Jackman and Ashley Judd look great in their underwear.

In Some Body, Samantha’s character does the dumping at the start, and then finds to her chagrin that her long-term boyfriend Anthony (Jeramy Guillory) has moved on to a new, more sexually satisfying relationship more quickly than she has. Samantha has a quick affair with the boy next door (literally) at her new apartment and also has a one-night-stand that incipient stalker Tony T (Tom Vitorino) would like to turn into something more permanent. Samantha’s relationship with Bobby (Sean Michael Allen) begins with them falling into bed after she drinks too much (she’s dressed as a devil at a costume party), but surprisingly they start what seems to be a relationship with some promise.

Still, for all the straight-to-the-camera confessions and the frankness about sexuality of Some Body, I still felt like I didn’t know much more about Samantha (much less any of the other characters) at the film’s end than the beginning. It’s not that I want the filmmakers to spell out every motivation in capital letters, and I’m fine with the ambiguity of the ending. But I think the filmmakers themselves are so close to the characters that they haven’t decided how they feel about them—or if they have, they’re not telling us. Even a documentary isn’t just raw footage; it needs a point of view, and Some Body’s seems to be simply: relationships are tough, especially for women, and love and sex are confusing for everybody. It’s not enough

Directed by Henry Barrial
Written by Stephanie Bennett and Henry Barrial

With Stephanie Bennett, Jeramy Guillory, Billy Ray Gallion, Laura Katz, Tom Vitorino, Sean Michael Allen

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