Jennifer’s Body: Starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried

JENNIFER’s jaw–and the rest of her BODY–arrive in theaters everywhere September 18,” promise the seductive marketing ads and posters for Fox Atomic’s over hyped “Jennifer’s Body.” But you may wonder what has happened in the process to Jennifer’s Mind and Heart—or to the film’s promise to be original, edgy, and real fun.
It’s always a risky proposition to world-premiere a film in a major festival, particularly in the big and global Toronto Film Fest, because critical response and its rippling effects might not be what the studio had anticipated or wished for.
Toronto placed the premiere of “Jennifer’s Body” in the right series, Midnight Madness, but the movie opens widely and legitimately in a multiplex near you this Friday.In less than a week, it will become clear whether “Jennifer’s Body,” a collaboration of three young and hip femmes, scribe Diablo Cody, director Karyn Kusama, and up-and-coming star Megan Fox, is critics-proof, that is, a movie that will be embraced by its core young audience regardless of what the reviewers think.
 “Jennifer’s Body” tells the story of two life-long friends, Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Needy (Amanda Seyfried), who find themselves at a crossroads.   When first met, they represent broad stereotypes, and it’s one of Cody’s shortcomings as a writer that, at the end of the film, they transform into types but not fully fleshed out individuals.

Living up to her name, Needy is a mousy, clingy, insecure girl, living in the shadows of her friend. In contrast, Jennifer is a bombshell who’s seemingly incredibly cool and confident. Choosing different paths, socially and psychologically they’ve outgrown each other, and don’t have much in common anymore. Yet their friendship has somehow endured, and they have remained close and even intimate, but the friction between them is manifest and occasionally Jennifer is not above bullying Needy. How long would Needy take the abuse?

Implausible melodramatics kick in, when Jennifer takes Needy to see a rock band from the city, which has a gig at a local bar in Devil Kettle, the girls’ rural hometown. (Like everything else in the film, the labels and names are self-consciously cool). To ensure their success in the music business, the sinister rockers sacrifice Jennifer to the devil’s altar, failing to realize that they have actually compromised the semi-mythical ritual. They were expected to sacrifice a genuine virgin, and Jennifer is nothing but. As a result, a demon is channeled into Jennifer, and she starts feeding on young men (and sometimes young women).

As expected from a film made by a female writer and female director, the female parts are relatively better developed than those of the males, all of which are narrowly defined. Take Needy’s appealing and sensitive boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons), or Mr. Wroblewski (J.K. Simmons) who, speaking in a heavy Irish accent, has only brief scenes as a one-handed schoolteacher.
My initial response to “Jennifer’s Body” is mixed-to-negative for three main reasons. First, the movie is too self-conscious and calculated, going out of its way to be coolly grounded in contempo pop culture and lingo, as if to justify Diablo Cody’s status as a hip writer, following her Oscar-winning script for “Juno,” a far better and more original picture, which was a homerun for Fox Searchlight.
Second, in trying to be a hybrid, postmodern movie, “Jennifer’s Body” tries, but only partially succeeds, in being a fresh and original genre flick–the high-school horror comedy flick–and at the same time to satirize the narrative conventions and visual codes of this growing body of pictures.
Third and most important, on its own terms, “Jennifer’s Body” is neither scary enough to qualify as horror, nor funny enough to qualify as comedy, neither erotic enough to qualify as a sexual romp, nor audacious enough to merit as camp.   Ultimately, the horror elements and gore fest (with various body parts on display) are more striking than the sexual and erotic ones.
No doubt, “Jennifer’s Body” would have appeared fresher if it had been made twenty years ago, before “Heathers,” the Sundance hit that began the trend, or even a decade ago, before “Mean Girls” changed the cultural map of the genre, not to mention the fact that the movie would have been better received if it came before “Juno,” rather than after it. By the way, Amanda Seyfried provides an associative link between “Mean Girls” and “Jennifer’s Body.”
It’s too bad that Jason Reitman, who directed with great skill and taste the Diablo Cody-scripted “Juno,” did not exercise more strongly his authority as producer of “Jennifer’s Body.”
What will the movie do to the future careers of the three femmes involved, in front and behind the cameras?  While not exactly a sophomore jinx for scribe Cody, “Jennifer’s Body” is a disappointing step down. In the press notes, Cody is quoted as saying: “I wanted to write something that was about my fears, something that was a little edgy and eerie, but also funny. So I started thinking about what’s scary to me, and I decided that girls are scary!” Hence, it could be that Cody, who’s a regular correspondent for the magazine “E.W.,” felt pressure to deliver an ultra-cool picture without paying much attention to a more multi-nuanced narrative, sharper characterization, and stinging humor.  In general, “Jennifer’s Body” is a picture that barks much louder than it actually bites.
For helmer Kusama, the question is: Can a director survive two severely flawed movies made back-to back? After a most promising writing-directing debut with the 2000 Sundance Fest hit, “Girl Fight,” Kusama made the sci-fi “Aeon Flux,” starring Charlize Theron, which was an artistic and commercial flop.
The jury is still out there concerning the stardom prospects of actress Megan Fox, whose reputation thus far rests on the smash popularity of Michael Bay’s “Transformers” film series, to which she contributed only peripherally. Fox looks sexy, but it’s still impossible to tell how strong are her thespian skills and how wide her range,
Cast
Jennifer – Megan Fox
Needy – Amanda Seyfried
Chip – Johnny Simmons
Mr. Wroblewski – J.K. Simmons
Needy’s Mom – Amy Sedaris
Nikolai – Adam Brody
Credits
A 20th Century Fox release of a Fox Atomic presentation of a Dubiecki/Novick/Reitman production, in association with Dune Entertainment.
Produced by Mason Novick, Daniel Dubiecki, Jason Reitman.
Executive producer, Diablo Cody.
Co-producer, Brad Van Arragon.
Directed by Karyn Kusama.
Screenplay, Diablo Cody
Camera, M. David Mullen.
Editor, Plummy Tucker.
Music, Theodore Shapiro, Steven Barton; music supervisor, Randall Poster.
Production designer, Arv Greywal; art director, Paolo G. Venturi; set designer, Douglas Girling; set decorator, Joanne LeBlanc.
Costume designer, Katio Stano.

 

Casting, Mindy Marin.
MPAA Rating: R.
Running time: 100 Minutes.