LA Film Festival Review: ‘Softness of Bodies’ Mines Laughs From Narcissism


The entitled millennial stereotype has been done to death. TV and movies have been littered with trust fund Brooklyn poets with man buns and paper thin skin. “Softness of Bodies” presents a vision of a millennial that is both aligned with this stereotype and also hates the people who are that stereotype. Dispassionate and narcissistic, our heroine elicits many laughs. However, the film as a whole amounts to about as much as the character. It’s a nice, fun ride, but evaporates almost as soon as one leaves the theater.

A checked-out poet on an artist’s visa in Berlin, Charlie (Dasha Nekrasova) finds her life set willingly to neutral. That is, until she becomes a finalist for a poetry grant that could finally get her an influx of cash and something to strive for. Just as Charlie finds something to anchor her life, her other tendencies resurface to set her back. She engages in an affair with a German man-child named Franz (Moritz Vierboom). On her way out of their tryst, Charlie steals his girlfriend’s designer shoes. Stealing is something she does often. This gets her in trouble with the law. Now, she has to come up with $800 to pay for a shoplifting fine or she goes to jail. Struggling to find money and the words to her poetry submission, Charlie scrambles to maintain a life she barely wants.

Star Dasha Nekrasova works well in extremely strange ways. Her Charlie comes off as Emma Watson with the narcissism of a character from the Lena Dunham universe. If that sentence makes you run for the hills, “Softness of Bodies” probably isn’t for you. Nekrasova approaches each scene with a deadpan “who cares” affectation that’s hilariously obtuse. She is her best when dialing up the absurdity. One particular scene in the third act finds her maligning her upcoming poetry submission during a very inopportune time. These are the moments that wring the most authentic laughs.

Writer/Director Jordan Blady’s visual eye focuses on the quirks of the mundane. Berlin is shot with a dispassion that one doesn’t normally see in a movie set in Europe. All of Charlie’s surroundings and life look like an average American metropolitan area that has enough hipsters to fill a live poetry reading. This adds to a few chuckles, but doesn’t exactly set this apart from other low budget indies on a visual level.

However, Blady shows off a wicked, sharp sense of humor in his writing. The script allows Charlie to always talk almost on a different plane with all of her scene partners. She acerbically throws around disdain and disinterest while the men around her try and win her affections. It’s a clever stroke of writing that elicits many chuckles throughout. However, that doesn’t prevent the film from getting repetitive. It’s fine to give your character almost singular wants and desires as she acts solely on self-interest. However, up until a shocking turn of events, the film and character seem to repeat their behavior and actions, almost buying time until the story can wrap itself up. This is especially true of the three men that Charlie juggles. All are defined by a single trait and never develop or present themselves to be interesting foils.

That same complaint of singularity could be lobbied against Charlie as well, to a degree. Charlie wants nothing more than to steal. Even then, she doesn’t want what she’s stealing. Upon further examination, there really isn’t much that she wants. It’s more that she doesn’t want to put effort in. This character makes for many fun moments. However, it’s hard to structure even a 74-minute movie off of that one joke. “Softness of Bodies” works best almost as an elongated short. It’s a fun character study with some interesting visual quirks and a strange, funny lead performance. However, as a feature film, it’s more of a half-baked appetizer than a full meal.

“Softness of Bodies” premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival on September 25th.

GRADE: (★★½)