Friday, September 18, 2009

Jennifer's Body: Blood. Sucking.

A young girl is lured into a van by a struggling emo band who thinks she's a virgin. They drive to a forest, and following satanic instructions they found on the internet, stab and bleed her as a sacrifice to Satan, in hopes that Satan will reward them with a career. Little do they know that the virgin they picked is anything but, and according to their satanic instructions, this means the girl will be given demonic powers and feast on flesh for the rest of her days. The entire idea isn't a bad one, there's feminist implications, room for interesting gore and dramatic weight from the dynamic between two friends where one is clearly the dominant force, but Karyn Kusama's Diablo Cody-penned Jennifer's Body squanders it on cheap jokes, sluggish pacing, limp writing and negative-adjective emo songs. The reason Cody's Juno worked is simple and clear now, Jason Reitman. With Reitman there to find the right way to film Cody's slang-filled script, it came off as genuine and evolved into a sweet, touching film. Jennifer obviously isn't going for sweet or touching, it's going for thrills and laughs and it fails on both accounts because Karyn Kusama is less adept at filmmaking than Reitman, and she squanders what little charm the screenplay has and the, for the most part, excellent cast she has at her disposal. Megan Fox is fine, she's not great, but she's far from the humorless stick with boobs that most people make her out to be. I've only seen her in one movie before this, Robert Weide's very funny How To Lose Friends and Alienate People, where she played a vacuous, vapid, vacuum of cocaine and praise hording young actress, perhaps a less image conscious version of herself. There, I thought she was perfect; she was as mean and heartlessly aloof as she was meant to be, but it's obvious her career has fallen into her lap not for her talent but for her looks. Having said that, she's perfect for the part, Jennifer is a mean, heartlessly aloof high school beauty, only this time she literally eats people alive. Given better direction and a more accomplished filmmaker, she could have been one of the classic horror queens, a grotesque, blood thirsty extrapolation of the high school bitch, but here she's given some dark eye shadow, unzips her sweatshirt and is morphed into a figure resembling the one on the poster of Pink Floyd's The Wall, then quickly shrouded in shadow to conceal the limited budget of the film. Amanda Seyfried, a very talented young actress, tries as she might to make the arc of her character work, but with glaringly obvious plot holes, and little of a character, she comes out empty handed. She's left screaming and scrunching her face without purpose or a safety net of a character. Likewise, cameos from Juno's J.K. Simmons and the ever reliable Amy Sedaris offer nothing but the thought of how disappointed the two must have been when they saw this final product vomited onto the screen. Without cohesive structure, intelligent writing and adept direction, it seems Jennifer could stand to learn a thing or two from Juno.

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