Much like the rap battles it both elevates and deconstructs, the Eminem produced Bodied is full of insight and contradictions. It is a film that wants to have its cake and eat it too, and for the most part it succeeds. Frequently funny, Joseph Kahn’s latest work offers some of the most scathing commentary you will see this year regarding cultural appropriation, white privilege, challenging art, misogyny, outrage culture, and systemic racism. While it does not always succeed when reflecting the ills of our current society back to us, it is a fascinating conversation starter nonetheless.
Written by Canadian rapper/author Alex Larsen, most well known as former King of the Dot battle rap champion Kid Twist, the story centres on a graduate student, Adam (Calum Worthy), who is writing a thesis on the use of the N-word in the battle rap scene. Viewing battle rap as a competitive form of poetry, Adam soon finds himself immersed in the scene and befriending his rap mentor, Ben Grim (Jackie Long). Despite his girlfriend Maya’s (Rory Uphold) objections to his participation, Adam openly embraces the seemingly no holds barred approach to the art form. What he fails to realize though is that exerting one’s freedom of speech comes with its own set of consequences.
Featuring several notable past and present battle rappers (including Jonathan “Dumbfoundead” Park, Dizaster, and Organik) in supporting roles or cameos, Bodied has plenty of satirical jabs that will delight both hardcore fans of the art form and newcomers alike. What makes the film work so well is that its commentary aims far beyond hip hop culture, in fact rap music is merely the gateway to a larger societal conversation.
It is refreshing to see a film such as this, a comedy no less, offer such a frank discussion on race relations in America, especially in relation to popular culture. One in which the focal point, Adam, is a villain who innocently sees himself as a hero. A point that Larsen’s script itself seems to have problems reconciling as seen in its muddled and overlong final act. While not a perfect film, it is hard not to get a bit cluttered when taking so many broad swings at various targets, Bodied is an hilarious and smart comedy that will start many necessary conversations afterwards.
Thursday, September 14, 8:15 PM, Scotiabank 1
Tickets can be purchased at the TIFF website.