Thursday, October 8, 2009

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Can You See Jennifer's Body Hanging Over Me?

So...Jennifer's Body is actually really, really great.

It took me long enough to see it, I know, but there were several factors involved. Some friends of mine needed to be available first. It had to be a night where I had free time. And it had to be in October, because Halloween and all that.

Maybe that's why it performed so dismally at the box office. Horror movies without established cult followings should just stick with October. Hell, it was hard enough for a horror movie with an established following to make it in August -- though that was probably because it was a sequel to a shitty movie. Why studios decide to release horror films in September and November releases is just perplexing. This is why crap like the Saw franchise does so well -- it's the only horror movie out at the proper time. Also, people like me go to see it.

Jennifer's Body should have been an early or mid-October release. Hell, maybe even a Halloween one. Because it deserves an audience.

The film follows Needy (Amanda Seyfried), a nerdy high schooler whose best friend is resident babe Jennifer (Megan Fox). Things go awry after an up-and-coming indie band, a fire, and a waning moon all come together one fateful night -- and Jennifer soon starts cannibalizing local boys. Like, hardcore. I'm talking disembowelment, blood-slurping, guts-everywhere cannibalizing. And always with their pants down.

And in the midst of all the carnage, we get a pretty smart screenplay penned by Oscar Winner (and Hollmann Award Nominee) Diablo Cody. Yeah, there are occasional lines that take one back to the "Honest to Blog" days of Juno, but for some reason, they come out more believably here than in that better-received film. I think it's because most of these lines come from Jennifer, making me think that perhaps the problem with the dialogue in Juno was that the characters were too smart, not shallow enough, to make bizarre pop cultural references disguised as smart snark. Whereas with a superficial beauty queen like Jennifer, we can see how these phrases sound smart and sassy in her head, and when delivered with confidence, actually come out effectively.

Boy, I hope that last paragraph was clear. I'm trying to convey two things. First, Cody's screenplay is intelligent, well-crafted, and shows a growing maturity in her writing. Second, Megan Fox pulls off Diablo dialogue so naturally that I was almost convinced that she was a pretty good actress. I'm not a fan of hers traditionally, but damn if she didn't nail most of her scenes here. And some people are going to say, "Well, yeah, she was playing a hot bitch, not much of a stretch," to which I would say, "Neither is George Clooney playing a suave Cary Grant-type, and he has an Oscar." God forgive me, I'm going to side with the Fox Fans on this one.

I mean, she's no Amanda Seyfried or anything. That girl just amazes me each time I see her. She dons glasses and bad hair this time around, movie-speak for smart and plain. It's in her body language and line delivery, though, that we see the quiet, protective Needy. Not to be confused with the insecure, needy Needy, because she comes off as more confident and assured than her name suggests. Sure, she changes her plans to hang with Jennifer, but she is her best friend, and most of us are susceptible to BFF pleading. Seyfried, Cody and director Karyn Kusama craft a far more complicated character than we traditionally see in high school horror films, one that is refreshingly intelligent, kick-ass, and protective -- and not in the "movie-speak" way, but in a believable, three-dimensional way.

One of the more daring aspects of this film is its treatment of the quasi-sexual friendship between hormonal teenagers that is so familiar to the high school scene. I know a lot of girls who "experimented" in high school, and perhaps one of the cleverest aspects of Jennifer's Body is its exploration of these feelings. We see it start in a flashback of Needy and Jennifer as children, when even then, Jennifer is the dominant female, with Needy ready to please her. I mean, with that, it's just the dressing of a wound, but when they're teenagers, there are weird feelings and moments, and...

OK, yes, there is a same-sex snog between the lead actresses that is intense and sexy. But more than that, there is a scene where they're at a concert, and Jennifer holds Needy's hand. And the look on Needy's face when she turns to Jennifer is just so full of love, and not entirely friendshippy love. Then when she realizes Jennifer's just reacting to the hotness of the lead singer (a deliciously funny Adam Brody), the disappointment on Needy's face -- this is one of those great moments, those scenes that keep people coming back to a movie time and time again.

There is so much going on. The fad of public grieving could not have come at a better time than the year Michael Jackson died. The fine line between frendsies and backstabbers is neatly and realistically illustrated. To top it all off, there's an original song that's actually pretty good, called "Through the Trees". Yeah, I already have the soundtrack. Because it rocks.

I know this movie won't work for everyone, but it was magic for me. Give it a shot; you may be surprised.

1 comment:

Caleb Strul said...

I definitely agree... this flick was ignored for all the wrong reasons. Have you noticed the negative backlash some people have had on Diablo since Juno saying things like, "She got lucky... once."? Stupid. And there are so many people that just flat out hate Megan Fox. What can you do? Good flicks get ignored all the time. But you can't put the blame solely on the studio's shoulders. That was only one piece of the puzzle.