It was inevitable, I suppose, that America's cultural fascination with all things zombie-related would eventually lead to a romantic comedy, albeit one with an admittedly dark core. Warm Bodies, from a debut novel by Isaac Marion, has been adapted by writer-director Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Wackness) and stars Nicholas Hoult (the hot young twink from 2009's A Single Man) as R, a teenagerish zombie who shambles about the airport terminal in his red hoodie, hoping to pick up the scent of human fleshwhich he eats.
R has a certain amount of regret about his eating habits ("I'll eat anything with a heart but at least I'm conflicted" he comments mournfully in voice over). After years of wandering around with his fellow zombies following an apocalypse, and sorta grunting every once in a while in an attempt to bond with M (Rob Corddry), his "best friend," R is filled to the brim with the old ennui. Over the years he's collected the detritus of American culture, stowing it in an abandoned jet plane, his secret lair. His yearning to be anything but a zombieas he plays John Waite's '80s power ballad "Missing You" on the record phonograph he's retrievedis palpable and funny.
This malaise over R's endless day-to-day existence, which he narrates in a dry manner, takes a sharp turn toward romance, however, when R encounters pretty blonde Julie (Teresa Palmer). Julie, accompanied by boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) and a group of other volunteers, has left the safe confines of the walled city presided over by her father, General Grigio (John Malkovich), in order to forage in the zombie-infested urban wilderness for food and medicine.
Careless and filled with the importance of doing his patriotic duty, Perry ignores the warnings of the others that a pack of zombies is nearby and R grabs him and kills him, chomping on his brainsingesting Dave's memories as he does so. The sight of Julie, however, stops R in his shambling tracks. Smitten, he saves her from being discovered and killed by his fellow flesh-eaters. (It's perhaps one of the most bizarre examples of a "meet cute" in all cinematic history.) He takes Julie back to his lair and insists in his Frankenstein-like grunt (he can speak a word here, and a phrase there) that she remain with him until he can safely release her.
Various plot complications, naturally, ensue as Julieover the course of a hopelessly twee montagefinds herself charmed by R's innate gentleness, cool record collection and hottie looks (in spite of his deathly pallor and, one supposes, his dreadful bad breath). Will the rebellious Julie be able to convince her stern, zombie-hating father that some of the walking deadespecially Rare really not so bad and just need a little TLC? Will these two mismatched lovebirds find bliss in a post-apocalyptic world? Will they successfully elude the "boneys"the skeletal remains of the zombies who have no conscience thought other than to cannibalize the remaining humans?
As these plot devices arise, the charm factor in Levine's movie wanesironically, as the zombies start to become more human, the thinness of the premise intensifies and the heartbeat of the film slows to a crawl. But the movie, which could easily have been titled I Was a Teenage Zombie, is bound to have its passionate followers. Even in his decrepit state, R is awfully cute (and spunky Julie isn't so bad to look at either). Not surprisingly, this being one of those paranormal teenage romances (a la the Twilight saga), to truly appreciate this zombie Romeo & Juliet you either go all the way with it or not at all. Prepare to squeal with delightor groan in complete dismay.
The Little Queer Film Festival (LQFF) is a new series spearheaded by Sapphic Adventures, a social networking group for lesbians co-founded by Kelly Zeng. Zeng, along with fellow organizers such as Baby Girls and Co., Jeanette Diaz Photography, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Center on Halsted, will present a slate of six films Saturday, Feb. 2, and Sunday, Feb. 3. The screenings, which will include a social component, are scheduled to take place at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., in the Hoover-Leppen Theater. The line-up for the LQFF is as follows:
Saturday, Feb. 2
Call Me Kuchu. This documentary focuses on veteran activist David Kato working to repeal Uganda's homophobic laws and liberate his fellow LGBT men and women, or "kuchus." It's co-presented with the HRC. A discussion will precede the 11 a.m. screening.
Kiss Me is a Swedish lesbian love story with a twist. 3 p.m. screening
Facing Mirrors is an Iranian film with a transgender protagonist. 7 p.m. screening
Sunday, Feb. 3
Lesbian Factory is a documentary about the unfair treatment of foreign migrant workers in Taiwan which follows the lives of seven lesbian couples. 11 a.m. screening
Zenne Dancer is a Turkish drama about the friendship between three menincluding one who is murdered by his father for being gay. It's based on a true story. 1:30 p.m. screening
In I Do, a British gay man marries his lesbian friend in order to get a green card. It's co-presented with the American Civil Liberties Union. An ACLU representative will speak about the status of legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois preceding the 4 p.m. screening.
Advance tickets and more about the LQFF are at www.littlequeerfilmfest.org .
Openly gay filmmaker Matthew Smith documents the continuing struggle to come out in his documentary Out in the Open. The movie, framed in a mock narrative style purporting to examine the "homosexual lifestyle," focuses on Smith's story as a gay filmmaker working in Hollywood.
As Smith and his family relay stories about his own coming out; his love for his partner, Solly Hemus; and their life together, he intersperses personal reminisces from well-known queer folks like Carson Kressley, Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis and Broadway performer Josh Strickland as well as friends of the community like Eric Roberts and his wife, Eliza. The film, which includes Smith's commentary, deleted scenes and other special features, has just been released on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures.
Check out my archived reviews at www.windycitymediagroup.com or www.knightatthemovies.com . Readers can leave feedback at the latter website.