Unsure What to Make of Jennifer’s Body
By Kristin Battestella
So, I was sick in bed watching some other random movie. After it went off, the 2009 Diablo Cody horror comedy Jennifer’s Body came on. I couldn’t reach the remote control to change the channel, and had no desire to move anyway. And thus, here I am, confused still at what could have been.
The popular Jennifer (Megan Fox) drags her nerdy but long time friend Anita- called Needy (Amanda Seyfried) – to a crappy bar to meet Low Shoulder, for Jennifer thinks the band’s lead singer Nikolai (Adam Brody) is hawt. After a mysterious fire suddenly burns down the bar, Needy survives unscathed; but Jennifer is whisked away in Low Shoulder’s van. When she returns, Jennifer gains an insatiable appetite for gutting and devouring male schoolmates. Needy both suspects and fears the changes in her friend, but no one believes her demonic claims against Low Shoulder- the band has become a major success since the fire. As Needy decides to confront Jennifer herself, she must also protect her boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons) from her hungry and deadly BFF.
I like most of the work I’ve seen from quirky screenwriter Diablo Cody- namely United States of Tara. The writing from Cody- an Original Screenplay Oscar winner for her debut Juno- is not necessarily the problem with Jennifer’s Body. The dialogue is frank, witty, and relatively realistic in the way the sassy younger generation speakeths. It’s amusing to hear and see some of the things these kids say and do. In some scenes, the right blend of black comedy, preposterous horror, and even a few scares are just right. However, director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Aeon Flux) never decides in which vein Jennifer’s Body actually falls. If we are supposed to laugh and appreciate the social cynicism, why are you giving us such lengthy and scary gorefests? But, if this is supposed to be straight horror, then there should be plenty more guts and gore than received. In some ways, I can’t believe this is rated R! This bipolar nature strikes an audience blow, because Jennifer’s Body never decides who its audience is. Hardcore horror fans will find it lightweight and dismiss- and frankly, the precious 18-34 male demographic is going to be seriously disappointed in the lack of nudity and lame girl on girl teases. I don’t think Diablo Cody meant the implied lesbian angles as such cop outs, but the relationship here is not handled with its due respect. Seeing Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox make out was just too much of a gimmick not to employ. And oh, they gimmicked it- and I must say, it fails woefully. The visual put ons make Jennifer’s Body look like all fluff and no substance. Sadly, I think it could have been much more.
(Soft glow in Jonah Hex much?)
After her woeful turn in Jonah Hex, Jennifer’s Body has not helped my opinion of Megan Fox at all. I must say, she fits the part of the dangerously hot cheerleader. She handles the witty dialogue just fine, and even delivers a few well-placed zingers in perfect comedic timing. With the proper grooming from an acting coach and un-conflicted approach from Kusama, perhaps she may very well have had some sardonic talent. Sadly, it just seems like Fox is playing herself, saying and doing what she would normally do to tease any weak and horny little boy. Her tongue in cheek ‘I’m hot, look at me, but no nudity!’ taunts completely destroy the illusion this film is trying to create. Are we supposed to like Jen? Hate her? If she is such a pimpin’ succubus, then we better see some pimpin’ succubus! It’s ironic, for Megan Fox actually seems to be a relatively tame personality on the Hollywood scene. Yes, she seriously says some bizarre things, but weird talk is nothing compared to the Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears types’ antics and issues. Instead of showing its promise, Jennifer’s Body is completely indicative of Fox’s just fucking with audiences and seeing how long she can make her fifteen minutes last without actually really having to do anything. You shouldn’t screw with a fickle audience as it is, honey, and if you want to stay in Hollywood, you will eventually have to do something worthwhile onscreen.
Whew, having said all that, I do like Amanda Seyfried’s (Mamma Mia!, Big Love) Needy. Instead of just pulling her hair back and adorning the glasses, Seyfried adds nuances of geeky style. Her skin seems oily, she wears weird clothes, and Needy does seem to have more than a subtext of feeling for Jennifer. Seyfried delivers the mix of irony, humor, and mousy Jennifer’s Body needs; and she still has enough left in the tank to kick it up a notch for the end. I can see the charm of the script that most likely brought Seyfried to the project, for sure. However, after having seen the outcome of the film and she as the only bright spot in it, I wonder why Seyfried is dumbing down to play such mediocre horror fair. She seems to be worth far more- and oily face aside, she completely outshines the supposed hottie Fox.
Sadly, the boys in Jennifer’s Body don’t come off as well. Who the hell is Johnny Simmons (Evan Almighty, The Spirit) and how did he get this part? While we can take leaps of faith and admit that 20-somethings, nay even 30-somethings often play our onscreen high schoolers, this guy looks seriously like he is 12 years old. No way is this kid 24! Maybe I’ve grown super old now that my 30th birthday is in sight, but I found it disturbing seeing this pup in a sex scene. It was just weird. Too Bieber. While I’m also not really sure what Adam Brody’s done to be so special (apparently, The O.C.), he was much more fun as Low Shoulder’s satanic band leader Nikolai. The whole film should have been about Low Shoulder with an ambiguous Lance Henriksen in pursuit! My favorite part of Jennifer’s Body is when the band breaks into a chorus of ‘Jenny 867-5309’ before the titular sacrificial deed is done. This was the Generation Y horror comedy irony for which this film was looking, but never fully found. Or was trying to hard to achieve. I (and it) can’t decide.
Eh, Cody fans or lovers of the cast can tune in and enjoy Jennifer’s Body. There’s enough with and entertainment placed few and far between for a fun night in with the gang. However, serious horror aficionados looking for social statements or those looking for a kinky late night scary or otherwise titillating thrill shouldn’t bother. I wasn’t going to bother with a review, but I had to make the two hours of viewing totally worthwhile somehow. Why are Fox’s movies always a superficial shadow and a miss of bad editing, design, and presentation? Aaaaaahhhhhh!!!