Karina’s Capsule: Young American Bodies

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Anyone who tells you that the online video world is a wasteland of cringe-worthy pop culture clashes and overblown science fair demonstrations obviously hasn’t visited Nerve.com lately. The decade-old destination for smut-loving smarties recently launched a satellite site called Nerve Video. In addition to collating music videos, film clips, vintage PSAs and other Nerve-approved scraps from around the vlogosphere, Nerve has spent the last year commissioning original series from writers, filmmakers, and artists.

One of Nerve Video’s early dramatic offerings is a series called Young American Bodies. The brainchild of Chicago indie film wunderkind Joe Swanberg (who just took the SXSW Film Festival by storm with his third feature, Hannah Takes the Stairs), YAB is an unscripted, heavily-improvised look at the intertwined sex lives of a group of Chicago twenty-somethings.

Shot largely in extreme close-up with a handheld HDCam, each episode is infused with equal parts quirky humor and soapy seriousness. The end result plays something like a bedroom-centric version of The Office – except with lots of full-frontal nudity and real-looking sex.

The first 12-episode season focused mainly on the romantic travails of Ben, played by Swanberg himself. Towards the end of the season, Ben finally bedded his long-time crush Maggie (Mollie Leibovita), only to realize that he may have actually wanted his gorgeous best friend Casey (Eve Rounds).

Season Two, which just debuted, picks up sometime later. Ben and Maggie are now living together, but are not involved. Ben tentatively embarks on a new relationship with an older woman, only to have Casey unexpectedly walk back into his life (or, at least, into the coffee shop where everyone hangs out). Meanwhile, Ben’s former roommate Dia (played by Swanberg’s real-life fiancé and co-producer Kris Williams) pursues her first same-sex affair.

There’s at least one sex scene in every episode, but the nudie bits transcend pure shock, blending seamlessly into Swanberg’s hyperrealist portraits of relationships. Still, be forewarned: YAB may not be porn, but it’s definitely NSFW.

Both seasons of Young American Bodies can be viewed here. New Season 2 episodes debut every Tuesday.

“Karina’s Capsule” is a weekly feature in which contributor Karina Longworth reviews a web video series or video short. Longworth, a Los Angeles native living in New York, founded the film blog Cinematical.com and currently writes for about film and media at Netscape.com and at her personal site, Vidiocy.com.

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Conrad Quilty-Harper

It’s an entertaining little series: full of the usual angsty 20-something crap, but far more “genuine” angsty 20-something crap than the stuff that TV usually churns out! :-)

Can’t wait to see what else you’ve found over the coming weeks for your column. I like Karina’s Capsule for a title btw.

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