They say that honesty is the best policy. So, at the risk of sounding uncouth, I would like to make one thing very clear about the darkly comedic Softness Of Bodies– the lead character of Charlie is a selfish bitch. At no point during Jordan Blady’s narrative feature-length debut does she ever consider the feelings of anyone else. She is also a bit of a kleptomaniac. Essentially a recipe for one of my least favorite kinds of protagonist. Why oh why then did I find her so disarmingly charming?
Charlotte “Charlie” Parks (Dasha Nekrasova) is an American poet living in Berlin. She is concerned with what her fellow writers and friends think of her poems as compared to rival Sylvie’s (Nadine Dubois) output. Charlie also constantly asks her male friends and lovers if they believe if she’s pretty than Sylvie. Being a poet doesn’t pay all that well, even with the grants. Though, Charlie finds out that she is up for a highly coveted fellowship and feels pressure to write the perfect poem.
“…Charlie finds out that she is up for a highly coveted fellowship and feels pressure to write the perfect poem.”
There are a few people she sleeps with every so often, though the person she fancies the most is already in a relationship. Due to being poor and having impulse control issues, Charlie steals clothing and shoes from stores (one store in particular) and occasionally from people she knows. This lands her in trouble with the police once she’s caught and owes a hefty fine. Between her legal woes, mounting anxiety over the fellowship, and her relationships not going how she wants, Charlie seems to be on a downward spiral. Can Charlie get her act together and finally grow up?
To be fair to Charlie, Softness Of Bodies is populated with shameless self-promoters. Charlie’s author colleagues ask for help on their poems or go out of their way to go up for the same grants after the fact. Her photographer friend continually asks to photograph her for his upcoming gallery show. In fact, almost every conversation, with one (possibly two) exceptions seem to revolve around each character telling everyone else their accomplishments. They don’t so much as talk to each other, so much as brag, or complain, about where their lives and careers are at currently.
Theoretically, such narcissism should make for a rather frustrating watch. Everyone on the screen should be annoying and pompous. While that is accurate to a certain extent, Blady’s screenplay goes all in on their self-absorption to the point of ridiculousness. This ensures that any audience member who is receptive to the punchline well get a good many laughs. Though, minus a few witty quips, the film really only has this one joke. It should also be noted that Charlie’s poems are outstanding.
“Dasha Nekrasova is a shining star throughout, whose raw magnetism will keep you glued to the screen.”
Blady also shows a firm grasp on tone and comedic timing as a director. After getting pinched by the fuzz for shoplifting, Charlie bemoans how her life is in shambles and asks why only bad things happen to her. The editing between that scene and one wherein her lawyer is reading a prepared statement about how Charlie is a victim of circumstance is seamless and lands a big laugh. Maintaining the proper balance of ego-driven megalomaniacs and reality is a tricky tightrope, but Blady hits it just right. This is especially true of the way he escalates things at the end of the film in an over the top yet amusing fashion.
However, the most crucial element to the success of Softness Of Bodies is its cast. Nadine Dubois is completely deadpan as the always disinterested Sylvie. However, this is Dasha Nekrasova’s movie from start to finish. She appears in every single scene, with one exception. Nekrasova oozes charisma and creates a compelling, deeply flawed character that the viewer sides with at all turns. You want to see her succeed despite everything, which may be the best hat trick the movie has. Every actor is equally committed to the movie’s odd tone and owning how despicable their characters genuinely are.
Softness Of Bodies does not reach the brilliance of the best film about despicable, disaffected young adults ever made- Roger Avary’s The Rules Of Attraction. However, it comes far closer than many other movies and carves out its own distinct style while doing so. Thanks to tight control of the tone and a script committed to its barely coping characters the movie mines humor in unexpected places. However, the true reason to watch the movie is the lead actress. Dasha Nekrasova is a shining star throughout, whose raw magnetism will keep you glued to the screen.
Softness Of Bodies (2019) Directed by Jordan Blady. Written by Jordan Blady. Starring Dasha Nekrasova, Nadine Dubois, Morgan Krantz, Lena Reinhold, Johannes Frick.
8.5 out of 10 Stolen Shoes