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Bodies, Rest, & Motion

Kl Studio Classics // R // December 15, 2020
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted February 3, 2021 | E-mail the Author

Fed up with his job selling televisions in a generic shopping mall (a position he has already been fired from) and filled with contempt for his surroundings (the fictional town of Enfield, Arizona), Nick (Tim Roth) informs his girlfriend Beth (Bridget Fonda) that they are moving to Butte, Montana in two days. Beth is not especially excited about this, nor is Nick's ex/Beth's friend Carol (Phoebe Cates), but both of them seem prepared to accept it anyway, until Nick drives off into the desert ahead of schedule, leaving Beth at home to pack and wonder whether or not he's coming back. As she contemplates her relationship and what exactly a future in Butte would entail, her solitude is interrupted by Sid (Eric Stoltz), who has been hired to repaint the house before the new tenants move in. Over the course of two days, the four of them interrogate their own desires, changing the trajectory of their lives.

Midway through Bodies, Rest, & Motion, Nick stops at a gas station in the desert, where he meets a Navajo attendant and clumsily tries to ask him whether or not the wind has a cultural significance. The Navajo says no, which frustrates Nick: "Be better if it meant something." Unfortunately, this is an apt evaluation of the movie itself. The title, of course, is a reference to Newton's First Law, and in a broad sense it's easy to see how that's supposed to apply to the characters, but that sort of general gesturing toward a point is indicative of the issues with Roger Hedden's screenplay (adapted from his own play). The film is a portrait of people at a crossroads in their lives in which the idea of them being at a crossroads is the story, as opposed to an actual articulation of a specific feeling or problem that is causing the characters to feel adrift.

The film's two leading men are the more frustrating half of the central quartet, with both characters coming off like a different cliche. Roth's Nick is a classic disaffected asshole, demoralized by the rat race, desperate for something more out of his life. Stoltz's Sid, on the other hand, is more zen, at peace with his own place in the world, supposedly enlightened because he can take the people he meets and the situations he finds himself in at face value, living in the moment. There is a germ of an interesting idea in the way the two characters are opposites, with Nick desperately believing a new location will provide some sort of insight into what it is he needs to be happy, and Sid willing to live in the same place until the day he dies, but the Hedden doesn't really explore this connection between them (not to mention, of course, the viewpoint of both characters shifts and changes over the course of the movie). Neither character is especially sympathetic, and, with the exception of a scene where Nick visits his childhood home, most of their scenes are predictable.

As Beth and Carol, Fonda and Cates are slightly more interesting, but their arcs are comparatively underdeveloped, with both characters lacking much of a point of view. With Beth, it's fair to say that some of her aimlessness is the point, but it's still frustrating to see a character sleepwalking through most of the movie, as Beth half-heartedly packs up the house in a bit of a haze. Scenes between Beth and Sid have a bit more energy, but the script requires Beth to resist giving into their connection, even after they've already fallen into bed together. In a very weird decision, Beth's most assertive moment, arriving near the end of the movie, ends up merely being the impetus for Sid to have his own epiphany, one which seems to contradict Beth's wishes. Scenes between Fonda and Cates are arguably the most naturalistic, with the two actors' real-life friendship translating to the screen.

From a technical standpoint, the movie is decent: despite the issues with the characters they're playing, all four leads give respectable performances, which often work even when they can't clarify substance that isn't in the script. Director Michael Steinberg wrings enough of a look from the film's simple settings to prevent the film from feeling stagey, but the film comes off as pretty straightforward otherwise, with Steinberg naturally recognizing that the movie is a performance piece and resisting much in the way of stylistic flourishes. Every generation has its version of malaise, a sense of discomfort nagging at the people living through it, and the '90s were no different, but Bodies, Rest, & Motion doesn't seem to understand the one afflicting its characters, resulting in a movie that asks the audience to sit through someone else's less-than-mid-life-crisis.

The Blu-ray
A Google image search reveals that the theatrical posters for Bodies, Rest, & Motion all left something to be desired, so this photograph, featuring the four leads lying down with their heads forming a square, is an improvement, even if the composition of the photo is cramped a bit by the dimensions of a Blu-ray cover. The rest of the art follows KLSC's standard template. The one-disc release comes in a Viva Elite Blu-ray case, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
For this Blu-ray, Kino has commissioned a new 4K master, and the resulting 1.78:1 1080p AVC presentation has a rich, grainy appearance, with well-saturated, naturalistic colors. Fine detail is very strong. Shadows are a touch heavy, the occasional fleck of print damage can be seen, and the photography doesn't have much depth to it, but the transfer's organic qualities are very satisfying. Sound is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, which has no notable trouble with this dialogue-driven movie. Sound effects and minimal music are nicely atmospheric, when present. English subtitles are also included.

The Extras
Image released Bodies on DVD back in 2003, and Kino has kindly ported all of the extras from that disc. They include an audio commentary by director Michael Steinberg, writer Roger Hedden, and producer/actor Eric Stoltz, a featurette (6:02), and a selection of behind-the-scenes footage (6:51).

On top of these archival features, Kino has sweetened the pot with three new extras. Both Steinberg (31:43) and Hedden (4:24) have recorded new introductions to the film, although (as one might guess looking at the length) Steinberg's is more like an interview than an introduction. Steinberg (who filmed his piece himself using his cell phone camera in his own neighborhood, before getting kicked out for "suspicious activity" and has to finish in his car) talks about how The Replacements indirectly led to him directing this movie, the storytelling trends they were trying to tap into, the explosion of the "American new wave," casting and making the film (accompanied by a bunch of great on-set photographs), taking the film to Sundance and Cannes, watching it dubbed in French in Paris, the film's release, and what he likes about the film and meeting fans of it today. Hedden (who has a heads up on what ground Steinberg covered), recording in his home, talks about the two big changes he made between his original play and the movie. Finally, there is a 1985 short film by Steinberg, entitled Nightwatch (13:26). This reasonably effective, gorgeous-looking black-and-white short is a horror/thriller-ish tale about a night watchman who torments, and then is tormented by a mysterious homeless man during a thunderstorm.

An original theatrical trailer and TV spot for Bodies, Rest, & Motion is also included.

For those who are already fans of Bodies, Rest, & Motion, this new Blu-ray should be pretty satisfying, replicating all the existing bonus features, adding new ones, and presenting the film with a nice new 4K-remastered transfer. For newcomers, I suggest renting the film before picking up a copy.

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