Bodied (2017) is a YouTube original produced by Eminem and directed by Joseph Kahn. Adam (Calum Worthy) is a college student working on his thesis paper who has reached out to a battle rapper named Behn Grymm (Jackie Long) as a prime source for his topic. Adam attends a rap battle with Behn, and finds himself placed in a position to battle an aspiring rapper. Finding a lot of joy and a being a bit of a natural, Adam falls deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole.
This film is easily a combination of three others that I find great joy in: 8 Mile (2002), Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010), and White Men Can’t Jump (1992). Needless to say, I really loved Bodied. The movie’s satirical look at the hipster college student constantly trying to be non-offensive while seemingly always managing to offend is at the forefront. However, a look at the world of hip-hop and the idea of persona merge seamlessly with the latter, making for one engaging experience.
The comparison to 8 Mile is the easiest to get, so I’ll focus on the other two movies and how I feel Bodied is inspired by them – to a degree. With Scott Pilgrim, it’s the visual styling that shows up, in addition to the awkward and nerdy protagonist. The film is firmly framed through Adam’s perspective, and multiple times we literally see what he is thinking. The visuals and his interaction with them feel like it is straight out of Scott Pilgrim, a fact that only made me love this movie more. Adam is lacking in self-esteem, and his confidence waivers constantly – especially when talking to his father (Anthony Michael Hall).
Where this film feels like White Men Can’t Jump is definitely most noticeable in the second to a final rap battle. The dynamic with Grymm and Adam is felt early on, and very much feels reminiscent of Woody Harrelson’s and Wesley Snipe’s character dynamic – especially the debate about white people not being able to “hear” Jimmy Hendrix. The concept of them coming from different worlds, finding common ground and being able to team up, and ultimately not truly able to continue their relationships rings true in both films. Grymm is definitely a more likable character than Adam, and their interactions move the subject matter quite a bit.
The best part about this film isn’t just the characters or the rap battles, but rather the humor it brings. This film is insanely funny at times, in large part to the side characters and their performances. There are no familiar faces in this film, but all of the performances really felt natural – even in moments of heightened elements. It was refreshing to see an indie film full of mostly new talent feel so naturalistic. The only person who felt like they were acting was Rory Uphold as Maya, Adam’s girlfriend. However, considering her character was supposed to be this try-hard hipster, the performance actually made a lot of sense…so it isn’t truly a criticism.
There is a good chance you’ve never heard of Bodied, and that’s a shame. It had been on my radar for like two years, and I just finally got around to watching it. I’m very glad that I did. There is a good chance I’ll be revisiting this film again in the near future. Bodied earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.