Monday, February 4, 2013

Romero & Juliet

February can be the time studios dump not-so-good movies on the unsuspecting public.  Of course, this is also the time when little "under the radar" gems find the light of day. Warm Bodies is in the second category.  What starts as a humorous twist on the zombie tale by giving us the undead perspective switches toward the end of the first act to a broad re-telling of Romeo & Juliet.  Stick with me here.  It's not just the names of the lead characters, although "Julie" is the daughter of the head honcho of the surviving humans and "R" is a sensitive "corpse" who kills anything with a heartbeat but is conflicted about it.  In this reading, this means that John Malkovich is cast as Father Capulet, which  (I admit) I didn't see coming, but is probably far from the weirdest role the man's ever tackled.  Also, Julie's best friend and confidant is Nora, a sharpshooter who harbors a desire to be a nurse, which I thought was a particularly sly touch.

At the heart of Warm Bodies is an idea lifted from E. M. Forster's Howards End - most of the problems in in this naughty world are caused by our failure to really see each other.  If we could only connect! As Julie and R begin to form these connections, despite being beyond star-crossed, R's condition of being undead begins to reverse and the reversal (or "exhumation," as the film calls it) begins to spread.  One indicator of this is R's emerging ability to feel - to feel cold, to feel loss, and to feel pain.  In Romeo & Juliet, Juliet tragically discovers that her love, thinking Juliet dead, has (spoiler alert!) poisoned himself just moments before, for "thy lips are warm!"  When Julie and R kiss and she discovers that his lips are warm, it signifies that he has returned to life.  And with that, there just may be hope for the rest of us, but those walls we've built - both the physical ones that separate us from each other and the more diabolical internal ones - have got to go.

Honestly, not a bad little movie at all.

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