Warm Bodies – 2013
Writer and Director Jonathan Levine
Starring Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, Dave Franco, Analeigh Tipton, Cory Hardrict, John Malkovich
Based on the book by Isaac Marion
This is a movie that accomplishes everything it wants to, within the limits of its scope. It isn’t out to be scary. It is not intended to be gross. It is a love story, plain and simple. That it happens to use some of the afore-mentioned elements is only as a vehicle. By telling what amounts to a very sweet story and sticking to the strength of the innovation of its ideas, it manages to make those watching it emerge with a happy heart. That’s something one does not experience often doing much of anything, lately.
The premise is the day-to-day monotony of the life (or lack thereof) of a person who, by all visible indications, is a zombie. There is a bit of a stretch to this concept, because by following the narrator, R (Hoult), we discover that he is aware of his existence, but unable to find a way to express it, but for the barest of movements. During an encounter early on, he kills and then feeds on the boyfriend of Julie (Palmer). One of the biggest misnomers in the early reviews were of the idea that it was at this point he fell for Julie. This is not the case. I will leave you to discover why.
After rescuing her, an evolution begins, and we see that while they are getting closer, R is changing. The use of flashback and dreams are inventive in Warm Bodies. How and when these things can occur is explained in such a way that helps the viewer understand what is going to happen, but it’s worth the trip to confirm. The zombies are split in to two groups: Corpses and Skeletons. While both are a danger to humans, there is a difference that sets one apart as the main antagonist. It’s not that it provides any amount of dread, to know they are out there. It is handled so well, it does not matter.
Hoult is a star in the making. His stare, first met when he played Beast in X-Men: First Class, is put to excellent use here. His job is, essentially, to play one who is steadily getting worse at playing charades. By the end, he does not play at all. The film’s success will be largely attributed to his performance, and this is deserved. He will be in First Class sequel Days of Future Passed next year and its pretty clear why they did not put Kelsey Grammer on the bill for the movie.
Teresa Palmer is somewhere between Alice Eve and Kristen Stewart in looks, and she acts more naturally than either of them. She had to buy R’s transition, and she does this well. Her physical acting talent is on par with Drew Barrymore, without ever overdoing it, like Drew does.
Rob Corddry is the next best thing about this film. If I were part of the walking dead, I would love to have Corddry around to make attempts at communication.
The rest of the cast is good, without detracting from the story. John Malkovich is underused, but that’s okay. I bet he just liked the material too.
Levine is creating an excellent resume, with The Wackness, 50/50 and now Warm Bodies. He uses effects sparingly, creates a mood with a limited amount of sets, and the only time it gets cheesy is when we see the skeletons move. It would be interesting to see how he would face that challenge in 10 years, once he’s got more tricks (and a bigger budget) at his disposal. The best thing about his handling of what is essentially young adult book material is that he never gets goofy with it. Funny, but not goofy. It’s a subtle difference that he knows how to express.
(****1/2 out of *****)