Body Shots

Body Shots (1999)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Amanda Peet, Sean Patrick Flanery, Ron Livingston, Tara Reid
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Cast & Crew Biographies

Those of you familiar with my reviews will know that I often write about the idea of fantasy versus reality in the Hollywood cinema. Hollywood is well-known for its ability to sugar-coat reality and present a picture of life that is so perfect that most of us can’t relate to it. On the flip-side of that, the movies can also offer us a gritty reflection of reality that can be all too realistic. These "realistic" films seem to work best when they deal with extreme subjects, such as substance abuse, war, crime, etc. When it comes to "slice of life" films, they usually walk the line between "real" and "real unbelievable." Once again, these films generally show us people and situations that are alien to most viewers. "Body Shots" is a film that focuses on sex, dating, and friendships — things that most of us can understand, if not relate to. The film, newly to DVD from New Line Home Video, offers a shockingly realistic look at the lives of young people in the new millenium.

"Body Shots" focuses on one night in the lives of seven people. Jane (Amanda Peet) and Rick (Sean Patrick Flanery) are two lawyers who have been dating for a short time. On the night in question, they meet at a nightclub, where Jane’s friend Whitney (Emily Procter) is a waitress, and bring along some other friends — Shawn (Brad Rowe), a friend of Rick’s who likes Sarah; Sarah (Tara Reid), an aspiring actress; Mike (Jerry O’Connell), a player for the Oakland Raiders; Emma (Sybil Temchen), the sad girl of the group; and Trent (Ron Livingston), a poorly-dressed wiseass who only looks out for himself. All seven people in this group begin the night with certain expectations, but in the end, nothing works out as planned, to say the very least.

The story in "Body Shots" is told in a non-linear fashion (hence the unavoidable comparisons to "Pulp Fiction" by some critics). The movie actually begins at the end of the night, where we learn that Sarah is raped by Mike (I’m not giving anything away here, as we learn this in the first five minutes of the film.). As the night progresses, we see that several unexpected couples are created, while other characters go home alone. The film also deals with the morning after, as the group learns of Sarah’s accusation of rape and they begin to deal with that. The experiences of this night force each character to take a look at themselves, their beliefs, and their morals.

And, "Body Shots" should make the audience take a look at themselves as well. The film makes some very strong points about the modern outlook on sex and alcohol. "Body Shots" was written by David McKenna, who also wrote "American History X", so he’s no stranger to controversial topics. The movie allows each character to give several revealing testimonials, in which the actors speak directly into the camera. In these testimonials, the characters talk about their personal views on sex and relationships. These opinions range from the innocent (there shouldn’t be sex without love) to the extreme (being with a person and not having sex is a waste of time). Outside of these testimonials, issues come up within the body of the film, such as Sarah’s unease with "nice guys" and Trent’s womanizing.

Most of the second half of the film deals with the rape and how the various characters react to it. This brings up the topic of gender-bias in rape cases, as well as the dangers of casual sex. "Body Shots" is able to delve into these touchy subjects without becoming overly preachy. The film doesn’t overtly push any conclusions onto the viewer and lets the audience make their own decisions about the themes involved. Having said that, it’s tough to walk away from "Body Shots" and not think about the risky behavior of the "party" lifestyle, whether that be for oneself or someone that you know. (I went to grad school with a girl who was prone to getting drunk and kissing strangers, but couldn’t understand why she was making herself a potential rape victim.)

While "Body Shots" deals with some very serious topics, it also has it’s funny moments, most of which come from Trent. You may remember Ron Livingston as the fed-up nice guy in "Office Space". Well, he’s a totally different character here as Trent, the man who uses Alka-Seltzer to seduce unsuspecting women. (You’ll have to see the movie for an explanation of that one.) Trent is one of those great characters who just says whatever is on his mind, and he basically steals the movie. Tara Reid, best-known for "American Pie", "Urban Legend", gives a very good performance as Sarah. She does a great job of showing how the party-girl turns into a totally different person when she has to face the consequences of her action. Brad Rowe is also good as Shaun, as he too, goes through a wide range of emotions. Amanda Peet manages to keep her clothes on and gives a solid performance as Jane. Emily Procter’s character, Whitney, doesn’t really do much in the film (except for her one big scene), but I just want to mention that she’s very attractive.

"Body Shots" comes to DVD from New Live Home Video, and while it may not be a "Platinum Edition", it does have its high points. The film has been <$PS,letterboxed> at 2.35:1 and is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TVs. The picture is razor sharp, showing no noise and very little grain. Also, there are no noticeable defects on the source print. Along with the clarity of the picture, we get a very good color scheme. The nightclub is filled with colors and this comes across great on the DVD image. Also, there are a few time lapsed shots of the nighttime skyline, and these are full of some amazing colors. The <$PS,letterboxed> framing of the image appears to be accurate, as the image doesn’t appear squeezed. But, this brings up my one big complaint about the film. Director Michael Christofer ("Gia") has done an excellent job of making the film look nice and has given the film a great pace. However, he doesn’t take advantage of the 2.35:1 <$PS,widescreen> format. In every shot, the action is placed on one side of the screen or the other, making that entire film ready for that transition to full-frame. As the film progresses, it becomes very obvious that each shot is full of empty space.

"Body Shots" comes complete with a <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1 audio mix. This soundtrack brings us clear and distinguishable dialogue and sound effects that are presented without muddiness or hissing. However, the music on the DVD comes across as a bit wimpy. With recent films such as "Gossip" and "Go", the nightclub scenes featured very loud music with a lot of bass, giving one the feeling of actually being at the club. This isn’t the case with "Body Shots", as the nightclub music has a tinny sound and offers very little (if any) bass response.

As this isn’t a "Platinum Edition", the DVD is shorn of extra features. The DVD includes the original theatrical trailer for "Body Shots" and it is <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1. There are Cast & Crew filmographies, which came in very handy in this film full of people that you’ve seen before, but you just don’t know where. It should also be noted that the DVD contains both the R-rated and unrated cuts of "Body Shots", with the unrated edition running about three minutes longer.

If you’re a fan of films that feature realistic portrayals of young people and the tough choices that they face with dating and relationships, then I think you’ll find "Body Shots" intriguing. The film is very well made and acted, and makes some very poignant statements. The DVD contains a very good video transfer of the film, but the audio could’ve used some work. And it’s unfortunate that the DVD didn’t include a commentary by the filmmakers, as I would have liked to have heard their thoughts on the film’s themes. So, be on the lookout for "Body Shots", but keep in mind that it doesn’t pull any punches.