So much to like and so much to … not.
Diablo Cody was damned if she did well and damned if she didn’t. After the success of Juno, an Oscar and all the hipster cred a girl could ever want, Cody seemed to be either much hated or much loved by film geeks. Any follow-up she crafted would have been heavily scrutinized, no matter what it was. It’s a shame that Jennifer’s Body has gotten heavy flak given the fact it bombed at the box office in spectacular fashion, because it’s not terrible. It’s also a shame that Jennifer’s Body isn’t great either.
Needy Lisnicki (Amanda Seyfried) is a geeky high schooler who has a normal life, complete with average guy boyfriend Chip. Needy’s best friend, Jennifer Check, is the most popular girl in school. Their unlikely friendship is the result of growing up as best friends and sticking together all their lives, to the point where they can sense things about one another. “Sandbox love never dies,” says Needy. They live in the town of Devil’s Kettle, a place where nothing exciting happens, and everyone and everything has horrible, sour-sounding names. (Needy? Really.)
One night, Jennifer wheedles and pleads with Needy to see an indie band called Low Shoulder at some dive bar. Fronted by the scheming Nikolai (played by a fantastic Adam Brody), the band longs for mainstream success. Due to some well-intentioned lies, the band believes Jennifer to be a virgin. When a horrific accident befalls the bar, the band lures Jennifer to their van and sacrifices her in the woods to Satan. The problem is Jennifer’s not a virgin and she comes back all wrong. In fact, she comes back needing to eat people for sustenance. Needy has to confront the demonic aspects of her best friend and the fact that Jennifer’s “evil, not just high school evil”.
Obviously, Jennifer’s Body is about female high-school relationships and how toxic and sick they can be at times. I’ve read Cody proclaiming this is a feminist movie; I don’t think that, but it is refreshing to have two female leads and a female-centered horror story.
The style and tone of the film is remarkably similar to Heathers in a way. Needy provides a running voice-over, much like Veronica. Jennifer, even before she becomes a succubus from Hell is Heather McNamara. Post-demonic transference, she’s Heather McNamara channeling the spirit of J.D. Jennifer’s Body has the same winky black humor as Heathers. Hell, Cody liberally seasoned the movie with so much of her whippy slang it’s hard not to compare it to Heathers, especially when it appears Cody’s angling to get in an iconic quote much like the infamous “I love my dead, gay son” moment. With all of the parody of grief and the platitudes people spout and all of the above references, Jennifer’s Body becomes less like a homage or tipping its hat to Heathers and more like someone used it as Cliff’s Notes.
Megan Fox surprisingly is good, given that she demonstrates some measure of self-awareness and actually sells the scene in which Low Shoulder sacrifices her in the woods. Adam Brody steals the show as an asshole wanna-be rockstar. Cody’s got recurring characters from Juno popping up too, like J.K. Simmons as a high school teacher with a hook that prove to be fairly funny.
For the most part, Jennifer’s Body is fun; it’s not horrific, it’s not gory, but it is mostly fun with a dash of teenage self-exploration. More than a few of Cody’s lines and signature teen-speak fall so flat it’s awkward, but most of them zing like they’re supposed to. I still haven’t decided how I feel about the ending, which is what you would expect and not what you’d expect all at the same time. I have problems with some of the choices the director, Karyn Kusama, made, but for the most part, I think Kusama did a fairly good job.
(Note to whoever insisted on the lesbian kiss between Fox and Amanda Seyfried: totally unnecessary and slightly exploitative, dudes.)
I’d recommend it is a Netflix rental, that’s for sure. There’s a couple of commentaries on the DVD but I haven’t had a chance to watch them yet. (As a side note, I watched the extended version, however different that is from the theatrical version.)