Bodies Bodies Bodies is fun Gen-Z surface, while a reinvented A League of Their Own goes deep
Mack & Rita
In theaters now
A weary young millennial with coastal-grandmother dreams walks into a Palm Springs yurt and comes out the other side as Diane Keaton in Mack & Rita, a body-swap comedy so daffy and weightless it nearly levitates. (And it might, if she weren't already strapped into thigh-high snakeskin boots.)
Mack Martin (You star Elizabeth Lail) is a 30-year-old Los Angeles writer who pines for a life free from social media and destabilizing shoes; why can't she just fast-forward directly to a Golden Girls world of caftans and 5 p.m. cocktails? That wish is unexpectedly granted when Mack swerves away from the rowdy bachelorette party of her best friend (Zola's Taylour Paige) — they all want to go a Bad Bunny show, she wants to lie down — and into the oddly spacious teepee of a freelance shaman (a beatific, deeply tan Simon Rex). One sage-smudged incantation and an act of God later, she's Keaton: suddenly 76, and very freaked out.
Forced to explain the senior citizen in the mirror, Mack becomes her "visiting" Aunt Rita: convenient apartment swapper, wearer of giant hats, all-around cool silver gal. That leaves Keaton to hoot and flail and fall into swimming pools for the next 80 minutes, and possibly find true love. (The Oscar winner, who co-produced the movie, also seems to have pulled most of Rita's clothes directly from her own avant-garde Minnie Mouse wardrobe.)
Despite sudden-onset osteoporosis — "I can feel, like, my bones" — and a near-fatal Pilates mishap, it turns out Mack-as-Rita is actually thriving: a flirty best-life "glamma" whose Instagram persona swiftly goes big with The Kids, even as she tiptoes into cross-generational romance with her skateboarding neighbor (Schitt's Creek's Dustin Mulligan). Director Katie Aselton (The Freebie) shoots these shenanigans with the sunny gloss of a TV movie or a basic-cable sitcom; logic and plot continuity hardly matter when it's all just fizzy fantasy. Keaton seems to be having a ball with her pratfalls too, though you wish it wasn't all played so silly and flat-out conventional in the end: new broad, old tricks. Grade: C+ —Leah Greenblatt
A League of Their Own
Streaming now (Amazon Prime Video)
This eight-episode dramedy, created by Abbi Jacobson (Broad City) and Will Graham (Mozart in the Jungle), constructs a diverse and three-dimensional world to tell the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, whereas the 1992 film it's based on — wonderful as it is — could only show us the Hollywood-glossy surface.
After fleeing the dull domesticity of her life as a housewife in 1943 Idaho, Carson Shaw (Jacobson) lands a spot on the Rockford Peaches in the brand new AAGPBL league. She joins leggy bombshell Greta (D'Arcy Carden); slugger Jo Deluca (Melanie Field); Jess (Kelly McCormack), a no-nonsense outfielder; Esti (Priscilla Delgado), a lightning-fast teenager from Cuba; Shirley Cohen (Kate Berlant), a neurotic stats whiz; Maybelle Fox (Molly Ephraim), a bubbly center fielder; and Lupe (Roberta Colindrez), a talented pitcher dubbed the "Spanish Striker" by announcers even though she's from Mexico. But Max (Chanté Adams), a local hopeful with an arm like a rocket launcher, isn't even allowed to try out — this is still 1940s America, and only white (and white-passing) women need apply.
The change in medium and era allows Jacobson and Graham to construct a deeper narrative around women seeking camaraderie, and also queer women seeking community. For players like Greta and Carson and so many others, the league is a safe haven from a hostile society that shuns them and a legal system that jails them for the crime of "sexual inversion." For players like Max, however, no such sanctuary exists — so A League of Their Own follows her story on a separate track, rather than tossing her in with the Peaches through some anachronistic plot contrivance. Max is a Black woman who wants to play baseball, but she's also a Black queer woman who knows she'll never be happy with the life her mother (Saidah Arrika Ekulona) wants for her.
The writers do a commendable job keeping Carson and Max's parallel arcs afloat while squeezing in some subplots for the superlative supporting players — but later episodes of League buckle a bit under the weight of so much story. Like the Peaches, A League of Their Own hasn't yet perfected its game, but there's almost no doubt these girls of summer will be back. Grade: B+ —Kristen Baldwin
Bodies Bodies Bodies
In theaters now
Horror movies tend to reflect the zeitgeist of the moment: the slang, the soundtrack, various evanescent trends in hair and footwear. And few films feel as extravagantly 2022 as Bodies Bodies Bodies, a blithe, ruthless slasher satire soaked in the digital-native lingo and dizzy Euphoria nihilism of Gen Z.
A group of old friends and more recent plus-ones have gathered at the cush family vacation home of the sardonic, pink-sweatsuited David (Pete Davidson): Sophie, freshly sober with her wary new girlfriend (Maria Bakalova) in tow; high-strung party-girl Alice (Shiva Baby star Rachel Sennott) and her date Greg (Lee Pace), an elder millennial with laser-etched abs; the fiercely self-contained Jordan (Industry's Myha'la Herrold), and David's delicate actress girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders).
Weed, cocaine, and champagne — along with a thick frisson of tension — have long ago entered the chat when someone suggests a round of Bodies Bodies Bodies, a Mafia-meets-Sardines murder game. The hurricane raging outside the windows is a pretty good indicator of the chaos to come; soon there's a real body on the pool deck, and the lights-out panic begins. Director Halina Reijn, a 46-year-old Dutch actress and veteran of far-out indies, doesn't stint on gleeful, preposterous Final Destination deaths, but her real focus lies in the fraught dynamics of the group — the thrum of class warfare, weaponized friendships, and old wounds simmering beneath the glowstick halos and sloppy hugs.
In a world where online culture (these days, is there any other kind?) eats itself on a near-daily basis, some of the dialogue inevitably already shows its age; lines about triggering and being silenced feel too broad for the rest of Sarah DeLappe's nimble, knife-edged script. Some of the plot turns, too, don't quite hold up to scrutiny, though the final twist is a chef's kiss. But the bright-young-things cast is wildly watchable, unpacking a nest of comic absurdities and deeper anxieties. (Pace is also a stealth MVP in his too-brief scenes, the archetype of Tinder-guy inanity.) Depending on your demographic, Bodies will probably either make you feel seen or utterly obsolete. It's also just straight-up fun: a black-hearted comedy of manners meets contemporary social nightmare, written in blood and vape smoke. Grade: B+ —Leah Greenblatt
Emily the Criminal
In theaters now
Give a girl in a gig economy a chance: That's all Aubrey Plaza's broke protagonist in Emily the Criminal is looking for. But $70,000 in college debt and half a degree from art school don't really polish up a resumé; neither does a rap sheet that includes a DUI and, as one potential employer helpfully points out in the movie's opening scene, a conviction for aggravated assault. If Nomadland was a tone poem about being poor, white, and female on the fringes of American life, Emily is more like a silent scream: a scrappy pitch-black study of just how easy it is to step into the void.
Once an aspiring painter and now a perspiring cater-waiter, Emily can barely pay off the interest on her student loans, and rarely leaves the house to socialize unless it's drinks with her one college friend (Almost Family's Megalyn Echikunwoke), whose thriving ad-agency career mostly serves to remind her of how bleak her own prospects are. So when a coworker offers Emily a phone number on a scrap of paper one day, she takes it — and finds that she has a knack for what turns out to be a massive credit-card racket: Take the stolen identities a man named Yusuf (Theo Rossi) provides, buy a large appliance, flip it.
When she passes the first test, Yusuf graduates her to bigger stuff and lets her start cutting her own cards. Between them, they may have actually figured out a path to their own American dream, albeit feloniously. But can "easy" money ever really be easy? Writer-director John Patton Ford is careful not to turn what follows into a zippy bling-ring montage; instead, he drills down on the messiness and occasional abject terror of essentially criming without a net.
And he has an ideal muse in Plaza, whose slow-blinking lemur eyes and sour-candy acidity have made her a go-to for roles that require a kind of simmering, furious intelligence. (In one scene where she faces off with a womansplaining executive played by Gina Gershon, it feels for a moment like her rage might actually conduct electricity). Lank-haired and perpetually on edge, Plaza makes Emily's tumble into the underworld believable and, more importantly, interesting. She may be a wanton criminal, but she's also a woman very much for these times: not the antiheroine we knew we needed, maybe, but one that we deserve. Grade: B+ —Leah Greenblatt
Streaming Thursdays (HBO Max)
Season 3 of this sneaky-clever glitterbob farce goes Full Poison Ivy. The plant-controlling super-scientist (voiced by Lake Bell) once yearned for a world reclaimed by prehistoric flora. Her ever-supportive new girlfriend Harley (Kaley Cuoco) begs Ivy to restart that old project, which will cure climate change — and, like, radically upend human civilization.
Solid concept for a blockbuster adventure: terraforming, mutant plants, a bit of [Bane voice] TOPICALITY!!!! It's also a solution to a sacred sitcom problem. After two seasons of will-they-or-won't-they chemistry, the Gotham villains are just a regular couple, with problems that are familiar even when they're bonkers. Harley and her progressive alien deathcore band are practicing too loudly when Ivy needs quiet laboratory time. The ladies go to a party (the 83rd Annual Supervillain awards!) and their exes awkwardly show up, too. And it turns out Ivy never told Harley that she hooked up with Catwoman (Sanaa Lathan).
Showrunners Justin Halpern and Patrick Shumacker make a successful leap into couples comedy, while ably juggling with a couple other season-long arcs. Commissioner Gordon (Christopher Meloni) runs a tough-on-crime campaign for Mayor, with Two-Face (Andy Daly) as his campaign manager. Clayface (Tudyk again) gets a big break in his acting career thanks to a new biopic about Thomas Wayne. At best, Harley Quinn's renegade sensibility can feel punk rock, dangerous, and new. So I'm a bit worried about a late-season twist which curves this Batman-adjacent show into, well, a (very good!) Batman story. Do we really need another (very good!) Batman story where a lot of characters worry about Bruce Wayne's feelings? I'll take the progressive alien deathcore. Grade: B+ —Darren Franich