Last night I watched the teen horror comedy Jennifer’s Body (2009), but find it hard to summon up any particularly strong feelings about it one way or the other. The review aggregate sites seem to rate it at roughly 50%, and that seems fair enough to me… there’s nothing aggressively or offensively terrible about this movie, but there’s nothing especially new or surprising or awesome about it either. I imagine it would probably seem much more enjoyable to someone who’d never seen Ginger Snaps (the gold standard of this genre) or Heathers before, but to someone who owns and loves both those movies, it just seemed like a dumbed down derivative.
For those who don’t know, this flick stars Megan Fox as the eponymous ‘Jennifer Check’, a passive-aggressive cheerleader who is “best friends” with the nerdy ‘Anita “Needy” Lesnicki’, played by Amanda Seyfried… although there doesn’t seem to be much of a bond between them, besides a weird one-way psychic link which is never really explained or explored. Personally, I think the tragic events that transpired would have packed a lot more emotional punch if we’d been given some reason to actually care about these two characters, and invest in their relationship, but screenwriter Diablo Cody is too busy filling their mouths with smart-ass quips to bother fleshing out their supposed friendship. It would have made far more sense to make them sisters, a la Ginger Snaps, because then at least there’d be a solid reason for two young women with such contrasting personalities and interests to hang out together… although in Snaps the sisters also shared a macabre sense of humour, which marked them out as pariahs at their school, so their bond was even stronger, and their eventual break-up much more powerful.
When Jennifer becomes a demon, following her abduction by a Satanic indie-schmindie rock band, the only noticeable change in her behaviour is that she starts eating boys instead of having sex with them. Which, incidentally, is the exact opposite of how a supposed Succubus should behave, making this movie seem even more like a sub-par Snaps rip-off than it would have been if they’d just stuck to the occult lore. There’s this whole muddled plot point about whether or not Jennifer was a virgin or not, because Needy feels compelled to insist that her “BFF” is chaste, even though she secretly knows that she isn’t, and most viewers are likely to assume she isn’t from the way she dresses and behaves (no offence)… but a more interesting way to play it would have been for both characters to be dowdy nerds, who most people would assume were virgins based on the way they dress and behave (again, no offence). Then, when the one who’s abducted for the Satanic sacrifice turns out to be unchaste, it’s more of a twist, and her transformation into a super-confident seducer is more of a shock, and you can play it up as an over-the-top satire on sexual politics and such. I mean, it seems to me the whole point of telling a story about a Succubus would be to mock men’s fear of losing their strength and “essence” (or “Chi”) to the women they sleep with. If all you want to do is tell a story about a girl biting boys to death with pointy teeth, you may as well just make her a vampire or a werewolf… or a really over-enthusiastic cannibal. Feh.
All that having been said, I think this movie was a pretty good showcase for Seyfried, as she convincingly portrays her character’s transformation from chipper good-girl to traumatised bad-girl… and I couldn’t help wondering how much better I Know Who Killed Me might have turned out, if she’d been cast in the lead instead of Lindsay Lohan. Not that it really matters now. I quite enjoyed Fox’s performance here too, although I couldn’t really stand her character… she made for a pretty crappy friend, but a very convincing and vampish villain, with a truly demonic grin. Relative newbie Valerie Tian had a couple of good scenes as an outspoken classmate of Needy’s, while veteran actresses like Cynthia Stevenson and Amy Sedaris were wasted in fleeting mumsy roles. And why did there only seem to be the one teacher working at that damn school? I think J. K. Simmons is a great actor, but could he really run an entire educational establishment single-handed? (pun intended) Comedy-wise, I’d give the MVP award to Adam Brody, for his cheerfully depraved turn as the ambitious rock star who sets the whole story in motion. There are an awful lot of plot holes surrounding his character, but it’s harder to care when you’re laughing so much.
Note: From what I can gather, Cody seemed to believe that this movie was an empowering and inspiring feminist statement… but I don’t really understand what the teenage girls she claimed to have written it for are supposed to take away from this story. Even the supposed heroine ends up becoming a sweary, super-powered psychopath, who’s happy to beat up defenceless women for no good reason… so how does that help the cause, eh?