Streaming: Bodies Bodies Bodies, Sharp Stick and other great Gen Z movies | Drama films

IF online trend reporting is to be believed – always a pretty big if, admittedly – Generation Z aren’t big on watching movies, bowing instead to the shorter, smaller screen allure of TikTok and YouTube for their viewing pleasure. Perhaps that’s one reason why it doesn’t seem to be a definitive canon of teen movies for the post-millennial generation — but then again, Hollywood has often struggled to capture modern youth when movies tend to be made by the elders.

That disparity isn’t entirely resolved by two Gen Z-themed movies released on VOD last week, though both—at least in this cranky old millennial’s mind—have sharper teeth than many of their bumbling peers. Halina Reijn is seductively smooth Body bodies Bodies cleverly weaves a critique of Zoomer’s rapidly evolving identity politics through the silly, traditionally teen-targeted genre prism of the slasher film. Lena Dunham’s Sharp Stick takes a grittier, less commercial form to examine the simultaneous terror and ecstasy of sexual discovery. Both strike me as essential, enlightening viewing, whether children are watching them or not.

By sharply satirizing the language and psychology of interrupt culture, safe spaces and performative social justice, Body bodies Bodies is perhaps the most sympathetic to the dull point of view of an older adult. Reijn, the Dutch director who made his debut with the highly provocative rape thriller Instinct (2019), is a Gen Xer herself, and Sarah DeLappe’s smart, booby-trapped script (based on a story by Kristen Roupenian, of viral Cat Person fame) is good-humored but also quite generous in its depiction of college students find out the extent and limitations of their privilege. The social barriers between them are brought into relief by the traditionally class-conscious framework of the country murder mystery, transplanted to a very American McMansion. Performed with resounding gusto by a fantastic cast – with Shiva Baby star Rachel Sennott stands out as an entitled, glowstick-wielding dimwit—it’s a witty, nasty time capsule.

The ‘remarkable’ Kristine Froseth with Jon Bernthal in Sharp Stick. Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Sharp Stick, meanwhile, proves that Lena Dunham’s ability to articulate young female desire and turmoil isn’t limited to her own generation’s self-portraits. Her first film as a director since the 2010s Small furniture depicts a kind of delayed adolescence, focusing on Sarah Jo (a remarkable Kristine Froseth), a 26-year-old virgin still processing the trauma of a teenage hysterectomy. Her final, halting discoveries of sexual pleasure and pornography take a misdirected turn with a much older man. Dunham presents her intoxicating, vulnerable journey with an openness that never turns creepy, and a concern that never descends into moralistic finger-wagging, which outweighs the dangers and exciting freedoms of shaping your sexual identity online.

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart.
‘Semi-sweet friendship study’ Booksmart, starring Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever. Alamy

Against Sharp Stickthe glossy generational portrait of recent Zoomer comedies like Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s Take revenge (Netflix) and Quinn Shephard’s Not fine (Disney+) feels flimsy by comparison, though both of these satires of social media perils have their poppy joys. In the former, an act of revenge porn triggers its own revenge mission in turn, with toxic masculinity as an easy target. The latter offers slightly more conflicted motives such as an aspiring influencer lying about witnessing a terrorist attack, and is not prepared for the consequences. Both films rely on broadly stereotypical characters to carry the social commentary they have to offer. None of them are as well drawn as Olivia Wilde’s beloved Booksmart (2019), a semi-sweet study of friendship, beautifully played by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, with something to say about the strange, suspended reality of high school social hierarchies and how they crumble in the outside world.

Elsie Fisher in eighth grade.
Elsie Fisher in the “funny sore” eighth grade. A24/Allstar

Breaking into a genre dominated by female directors and perspectives, however, is Bo Burnham’s exquisite Eight grade may still be cinema’s best, funniest and most tender depiction of adolescence lived in the glare of the webcam and smartphone. Even after four years, there is already a peculiarity to the portrayal of the vlogging where shy 13-year-old Kayla (the wonderful Elsie Fisher) finds out who she is, and who she wants to be. Teenagers grow fast, technology faster, and Burnham’s film delicately captures a special pre-pandemic state of being and expression. Generation Z’s progression into film has only just begun.

Also new on streaming and DVD

Moonage Daydream
Brett Morgen’s large-scale audiovisual symphony for David Bowie took on a faintly trippy quality when seen and heard on a big screen, but will still thrill Thin White Duke obsessives at home. To a large extent, the filmed Wikipedia avoids the format of many music documents, and instead evokes the film artist’s own swirling, restless presence and aesthetic.

Moonage Daydream.
Moonage Daydream. Alamy

(Spirit Entertainment)
A performance of terrifying conviction by Rebecca Hall occasionally comes close to making something meaningful out of this loopy, Sundance-acclaimed psychodrama, in which a successful single mother and businesswoman is undone by the apparent return of an abusive figure from her past. As #MeToo trauma escalates into surreal unhinged body horror, it’s ultimately more silly than sobering.

Crazy God
Academy Award-winning visual effects artist Phil Tippett (Jurassic Park) makes his directorial debut with this gleefully grotesque, hyper-stylized adult fantasy rendered in painstaking stop-motion animation. The slim plot follows an enigmatic assassin through a series of lavishly imagined circles of hell; the confused world-building is the selling point.

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