“Hell is a teenage girl.”
As opening lines go, Jennifer’s Body has a pretty kicking one. (Hey, pun!)
Let me begin by saying that I had high expectations for Jennifer’s Body. Since reading Diablo Cody’s interview in the Aug/Sept 2009 issue of BUST, I’ve been wanting to see this flick. I missed it in theaters, and finally got around to seeing it recently. Why was I excited? Two reasons, mostly: first, because of what I’d read about it; that it was supposed to be a feminist take on the horror genre. As a viewer who enjoys shows like CSI and Law & Order, I was anxious to see the bad guy played by a girl. Frankly, I’m sick and tired of always seeing women cast as the corpses, or soon to be corpses, running and screaming from Faceless Rapist and Murderer of the Week. I was beyond excited to witness Ms. Cody turn the tables on men and make the killer a hot young woman targeting men. And second, I’m not gonna lie, I wanted to see how Megan Fox would do in a non-decorative role (::cough::Transformers::). I have a soft spot in my heart for her because I think she’s gotten a disproportionate amount of hate, and for virtually no reason. I recently read a piece over at HuffPo posing a similar question: Why do we hate Megan Fox? The author argues that we hate her because she’s beautiful and she speaks her mind: a lethal combination in a culture that rewards and values silent womanhood. Check it out.
So I watched it and I’m left a little flummoxed; but I’m going to give it a B-. If you’re still with me, read on…
Let’s start with the bad news. I was hoping that this so-called “feminist take” on the horror genre would eliminate sexualized violence, and while it did, it instead sexualized the agent of violence instead of the victim. So even though Jennifer targeted all types of boys: hot topic goths, jocks, foreign exchange students, and band geeks, not just the standard “hotties,” she was still the one being sexualized and objectified. We get it, Jennifer’s hot. And eating boys keeps her that way. Le sigh.
I can’t not talk about the girl-on-girl kiss between Needy (Amanda Seyfried) and Jennifer. I’ve heard it defended by Cody: “It was a quick kiss that demonstrates that Megan Fox was trying to control Needy the same way she controlled the men around her,” and that it was totally downplayed by Needy pushing Jennifer off of her. NOT. The kiss was less a kiss than a full-on make-out sesh! It seemed gratuitous. Was there really no other way to demonstrate the same idea?
And just because I can: Ms. Cody, when people from the suburbs or rural Minnesota talk about Minneapolis/St. Paul, they don’t say “the city” like Jennifer and the other folks from Devil’s Kettle did so many times– they say “the cities.” To wit: “I can tell you’re in an indie band from the cities because of your guyliner and ironic tattoos!” Shame on you, Ms. Cody, you lived here!
Wow. After all that, you must be wondering what the hell was good about this movie. Well, quite a bit actually.
I really appreciated the depiction of teenage relationships, namely Jennifer and Needy’s “friendship.” I thought Cody captured perfectly (sans the kiss) the toxicity that some young girls’ relationships with each other can have; the frustration that Needy’s boyfriend expresses, I think, is common for many men who don’t understand or grasp the depth that some of these relationships can have, or the hold that they can have over a girl’s life.
Amanda Seyfried was phenomenal in this film, I think she really stole the show. She first came onto my radar in Mean Girls, but her film cred is really stacking up: Mamma Mia, Veronica Mars, and a rumored role as Red Riding Hood with Gary Oldman?! Way to clean up. Seyfried’s portrayal of Needy was spot-on, believable both before and after Jennifer’s demon possession. When we first meet her, she’s locked up in a correctional institution and ostensibly bat shit crazy. We then meet the bespectacled goody-two-shoes version of her back at high school, and one can only wonder how the EF that transformation occurred. Needy is the only one who sees Jennifer for what she really is (“Seriously evil. Not high school girl evil.”), and is thus the only one who can stop her. I really found myself identifying with her and rooting her on. When she finds the bowie knife at the end, Adam Brody’s “sweet” murder-weapon-of-choice, you couldn’t help but cheer.
Speaking of Brody, the shitty indie rock band Low Shoulder from the cities rivals Drive Shaft for stereotyped ridonkulousness. What’s with car-related shitty bands in popular culture these days? Low Shoulder is so sleazy, you instantly hate them. Adam Brody plays the disgusting lead singer that Needy describes as “Skinny and twisted and evil like this petrified tree I saw when I was a kid.” And then there’s the one-liners! Brody asks his band mate, who expresses concern over whether to sacrifice Jennifer to the devil, “Dirk, do you want to work at Moose Hoof Coffee forever? I don’t, OK? Do you want to be a big loser or do you want to be rich and awesome like that guy from Maroon 5?” Dirk admits: “Maroon 5.” Between that and calling Jennifer a State Fair Butter Princess– winner!
The slang that Jennifer spouts got a little annoying, but it wasn’t as over the top as Juno. I could potentially see my past girlfriends and I calling each other “Vagisil” and “Monistat.” Maybe…some of them anyway. Although I can just hear Regina George now: “Stop trying to make Monistat happen. It’s never going to happen.” It was refreshing to see Jennifer, who could have just been another airhead-cheerleader-bitch-bimbo have lines like “PMS isn’t real, Needy. It was invented by the boy-run media to make us seem crazy.” (Which is mostly true- just read Flow!) Or “Do you buy all your murder weapons at Home Depot? God, you’re butch!” She was funny– and evil…
My last praise for the film is for its casting. I was excited to see Diablo Cody cameo as the line-less bartender at the Melody Lane Tavern where shit went down. (Was she set on fire as she hoped she would be?…) Kyle Gallner, also of Veronica Mars fame, plays the Hot Topic goth that agrees to go out with Jennifer to watch Aquamarine, described by Jennifer as a movie about a mermaid who has sex “through her blow hole or something.” Amy Sedaris as Needy’s Mama Bear mother, Chris Pratt (Parks & Rec), Cynthia Stevenson, and man-you-see-everywhere-yet-never-remember-his-name J.K. Simmons round out the rest of the cast I was just tickled pink to see.
To wrap it all up: was Jennifer’s Body fabulous? No, but I enjoyed it enough to question the amount of vitriol and backlash heaped against it. It was a fun movie, and I hope Diablo Cody tries her hand at another Horror-Fantasy-Comedy genre flick. Watch for yourself and see if you agree.