Homebodies (1974)

Sometimes, all you want to do is stay at home and sit on your couch. You love your couch. It’s so comfortable! You particularly love how it’s right in front of the TV. You want to wallow at home and relax in a pants optional setting. But if you’re one of the folks in Homebodies, what you want is not possible. No. Everyone demands that you get out and go elsewhere. This is unfair. Also upsetting. So what do you do? You murder people and push dead bodies around in wheelchairs. Then you learn to drive. Note that all of this requires pants.

Tenants are being evicted from their apartments. The building is pre-war, as are the residents. Everything in the neighborhood is being razed to build high-rise condos that no one can afford–certainly not in this economy–but hey, let’s keep building them! The old folks remember the days of yore, when everything was more elegant. Windows had curtains! There were flowers! People respected each other! But now, there’s dirt and traffic and the wall-shaking thuds of construction (aka my apartment). These sweet, mild-mannered tenants had first moved into the building temporarily; the plan was to move out as quickly as possible. Then suddenly forty years had gone by. And now all they want to do is stay, but they can’t.

Mattie, a silver-haired spitfire in an oversized cardigan, organizes a few tenants to take a final stand before the demolition crew arrives. It’s like the AARP version of the Alamo. They will stay put by any means necessary. And wouldn’t you know it, strange accidents have been occurring on the construction site near their apartment building. A worker falls to his death. An elevator short-circuits and explodes. At some point, Mattie sticks a knife in a welfare worker’s gut. To get rid of the body, she sticks it in a wheelchair and pushes it around the block, avoiding nosy neighbors. It’s like the AARP version of Weekend At Bernie’s. Homebodies has a bit of slapstick, including an extended sequence where Mattie learns to drive. The scene goes exactly how you think it’d go: She accidentally turns on the windshield wipers! She goes in reverse! She guns the engine and then slams on the brakes! But then the plot slowly escalates and the light-hearted tone changes to something darker. Soon, severed toes are hastily shoved in a sweater pocket.

On the surface, Homebodies is about 50 minutes of people telling the old people to get out of the building, and 50 minutes of old people saying they’re going to stay in the building, and 5 minutes of an old lady talking to her dead papa. Yes, it gets repetitive, and yes, there are only a handful of awesome scenes. But on a deeper level, the movie explores some grim themes. The powerlessness of the elderly. Our broken social welfare system. Abandonment. The human and cultural price of modernization. Moral decay. Growing old with dignity when the world is a less dignified place. The film meditates on what happens when people can’t change in a changing world. The message is as subtle as the wrecking ball that smashes into a port-a-potty.

This movie contains a paddleboat chase. It happens slowly because the people involved are old. And because they’re in paddleboats.

From the Archives