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Movie Review: Jennifer’s Body

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Diablo Cody is an interesting talent. She seems to be as loved as she is reviled. In just a few short years, her limited body of work has made her one of the more polarizing personalities in Hollywood. One of the best things about her rise to prominence is that people are talking about the writer as opposed to the director. All too often, unless you are a writer/director, the writer is relegated to the background, a name in a credit scroll. Diablo Cody is a writer and the focus of much discussion regarding the projects she is on. That is a good thing, regardless of whether or not you like her work.

Her latest project sees her team with director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) for a horror/comedy hybrid called Jennifer's Body. It stars Megan Fox (Transformers) and Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!) and tells the tale of a couple of high school best friends and a little blood lust that comes between them. It is a new look at the genre, focusing on a relationship first and foremost with the bloodshed all around as window dressing for the disintegration of a friendship and the different ways in which we view ourselves and our place in relation to others.

The screenplay bears some similarity to Cody's auspicious 2007 debut, the Oscar-nominated Juno. Both works have a distinct flow to them, a use of language that seems to be more about the placement of words and their sounds than their actual meaning. This leads to the invention of slang that does not really exist, an element that some love for its originality and others loathe for trying too hard to be hip. It seems that it was more readily accepted in Juno than for Jennifer's Body. I wonder why that is? Could it be because the first was a critical darling and the latter is a lowly horror film? Maybe. Perhaps people just genuinely do not like it or have grown tired of it. I really like her use of language, it is reminiscent of the way Quentin Tarantino writes. It has substance, but it also has style. It does not seek to be real or replicate reality so much as it creates its own alternate world.

As the film starts, we meet Anita (nicknamed "Needy" and played by Amanda Seyfried). She is in a mental hospital and looks to be rather run down and not terribly cooperative. We learn that something happened, no one believes her, it involves her best friend, Jennifer (Fox), and she is about to share the story.

We are taken back to happier times. Jennifer and Needy are unlikely best friends. Jennifer is the head cheerleader and most popular girl in school and Needy is decidedly to the nerdier side of the coin. The two go out to a local bar to see an up and coming indie rock act called Low Shoulder (led by Adam Brody). While there, Jennifer heads out with the band, despite Needy's protests.

She shows up at Needy's later that night, covered in blood, with a look of shock on her face. She spews some vomitous blood goop over the kitchen floor, scares her friend, and leaves. The next day, she is at school as if nothing happened. This is when things begin to change and the real horror begins.

Jennifer's needs become more apparent, although they are not of the usual high school lustful variety. Oh no, she may be using her sexuality, the titular "body" if you will, to lure boys into her praying mantis-esque trap. It turns out that whatever happened that night left her changed, turned into some sort of demon hybrid that has a thirst for blood, and perhaps a little bit of flesh.

Needy is the first to uncover the change and it is up to her, and only her (who would believe her?), to put a stop to the killing. So begins the battle of wits that includes a decent amount of blood, some kissing, and a one-on-one battle that does not end as one would expect.

The dynamic between Needy and Jennifer is an interesting one. It plays with the stereotype of the hot girl having a plain friend in the wings. The hot girl keeps the plain one around to reassure herself of her physical superiority as we watch her use her sexuality to attain what she wants. Meanwhile, the plain girl syncs her likes up with the hot girl in the hopes of attaining some level of popularity, but can never divorce her intellect from how she processes everything around her. It is no mistake that her nickname is "Needy" — she needs this friendship to help her own self-image.

The relationship between them is a complex one, with hints that there may have been a physical component. This plays into the gratuitous kissing scene that may not be so gratuitous. The scene shows the hold that Jennifer has on her friend and how their relationship can mess with Needy's logic and ability to judge a situation. I am sure that more will be revealed upon future viewings.

The acting is decent, for the most part. I find Megan Fox to be terribly annoying and a mediocre-at-absolute-best actress, but she fits this role fine, it plays to her strengths (though not as well as How to Lose Friends & Alienate People) and does not require her to stretch very far. Amanda Seyfried carries the majority of the film and does a fine job playing the scared, confused heroine.

Bottom line. This is not to say I think this is a deep film, not by a long shot. I just suspect there is a bit more to it than meets the eye. It is, at its core, a B-movie, a trifle of a horror film that tries to stand out from the crowd, something that it does succeed at. This is no gore-fest nor is it a neutered PG-13 horror. It attempts to shock and titillate and ultimately delivers a fun time at the theater.

Recommended.

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