Screenwriter Diablo Cody is back with Jennifer’s Body, following up Juno with another film about a foreign being taking up residence in a high school girl’s body. This time around she goes the demonic route with a darkly comedic “horror” film that sadly fails to live up to its full potential.
Though the title may apply more to the idea of her body being a vessel, Jennifer’s Body describes much more of this film’s title character. Jennifer is a very confident and outspoken high school girl who has no problem flaunting what God gave her. Unfortunately for her there is only room for one supernatural entity in this film. While at a bar with her best friend Needy, a weirdly explosive fire erupts, killing most of the people there. While in shock outside, Jennifer agrees to go with the band that had been playing that night in their creepy van, leaving Needy behind to worry about her. Eventually she shows up at Needy’s house covered in blood, starving, and sporting a really unnerving smile. Oh yeah, and she likes to eat people.
The concept of this film is really promising and sadistically entertaining, with a change in subject matter for Cody that is slightly shocking when you actually see it. The writing is different than what we are used to from Juno, but it is still drenched in Cody’s humor and her ability to say things that few others can get away with, making poetry out of random bits of dialog. In Jennifer’s Body, she brings up commentary on the sexuality of teenage girls, the multifaceted friendships of these girls, and high school in general, but these concepts are quickly overshadowed by the one-sided idea of sexuality plastered on the screen. In other words, this film starts to feel like soft-core porn at times, flaunting Megan Fox’s body instead of creating something more from the script.
The supernatural subject matter never seems too out there, but the film still seems to have trouble finding its pacing for the most part, often trying to invoke feelings of terror that seems out of place with the material. It’s not until late in the film during a confrontation between Jennifer and Needy around a pool that it becomes apparent what this film was supposed to be. This scene is dark and creepy, beautifully shot, and maintains the humor even in the more horrific moments. Plus the actresses fully shine in this moment. Fox was clearly born for the role of Jennifer, both in physical appearance, confidence and acting skills. But it is in this scene that she offers more than just her looks. Let’s just say that there are few actresses that can respond to physical wounds with words like: “Got a tampon? Thought I’d ask. You seem like you might be pluggin’” and not sound scripted, but she pulls them off with just enough aloofness to make them work. This scene also gives Amanda Seyfried (playing the role of the “dorkier” friend thanks to her glasses) some of her better dialog to combat Fox’s, creating a great battle of words as opposed to a duke ’em out fight, keeping this thing in true teenage girl territory.
Though this film centers mostly on the relationship of these friends and Jennifer’s newfound pastime, they are hardly the only characters to pull focus. Johnny Simmons plays what easily could have been the dismissible role of Needy’s boyfriend Chip, making him a character of substance. On the opposite end of the spectrum to Chip’s good boy persona is Nikolai, the lead singer of the band Low Shoulder, and Adam Brody is so convincing with his creepy psychotic tinge that he has forever scarred my memory of Seth Cohen of The OC. But we all have to grow out of our crushes sometime…
After watching Jennifer’s Body more than once to get my head around it, I can still honestly say that I have no idea how to feel about this movie. Plenty of the elements point to a disappointing film, but the hints of Cody’s script and the actresses’ personifications of these characters keep me from marking it as less than slightly above average.
Final Grade: C+