Jennifer’s Body (20th Century Fox, R)

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jennifersbody-header.jpgIt almost feels like Diablo Cody is trying to position herself as a female Quentin Tarantino, but she's skipping the Pulp Fiction / Jackie Brown stage and going straight into the Kill Bill / Death Proof genre films phase.

 

 

 

 

 

Don't you kind of want Diablo Cody to fail? I mean, it's well documented at this point that I adored Juno, the only screenplay of hers to be made into a feature film so far, and I think her script for it is the main reason the film was so great. But in her rise to superstardom (as much so as a screenwriter can reasonably attain, anyway), her public persona has gotten increasingly grating, and her omnipresence is enough to make anyone tired of hearing about her.

And now we have Jennifer's Body, the second screenplay of hers to be made into a film. Don't you want to not like it? It seems like it should be a feminist film—it was written by a female, directed by a female (St. Louis' own Karyn Kusama), and its two leads are females—and yet it is being marketed as masturbatory fodder for adolescent boys. Aren't you too embarrassed to buy a ticket?

Well, as it turns out, Jennifer's Body is a lot of fun, and all of those horny little boys buying tickets to see Transformers' Megan Fox naked on the big screen are going to be disappointed, because that's something that never happens. What does happen, however, is Megan Fox (as the titular Jennifer—no pun intended) brutally murders a handful of horny little boys, while her best friend, Needy (Mamma Mia's Amanda Seyfried) tries to stop her. It's maybe not quite feminist, but at least it isn't softcore.

It almost feels like Cody is trying to position herself as a female Quentin Tarantino, but she's skipping the Pulp Fiction / Jackie Brown stage and going straight into the Kill Bill / Death Proof genre films phase. Jennifer's Body plays like a half serious, half camp horror film of the 80s, and is replete with pop culture references to cultures high and low—for example, there's a Rosemary's Baby-style sex scene freakout, but also a Cruel Intentions-style girl-on-girl make-out close-up. There's even a torture scene set in part to "Jenny/867-5309," which couldn't help but bring "Stuck in the Middle with You" to my head in terms of unlikely anthems for misery.

So as to not fall into the film critic's trap of attributing everything good and bad about a film to its writer (also known as "Charlie Kaufman Syndrome"), let's talk about everyone else. Before now I had never thought much of Megan Fox—she always struck me as a poor man's Jennifer Connolly. And while I don't necessarily anticipate liking her in whatever she does next, she's perfectly fine here (again, no pun intended), bringing the right combination of scariness and sexiness to the part. Her only real problem is looking far too old to be in high school, which is a problem that also plagues Amanda Seyfried. Kusama brings a deft hand to finding what should be funny and what should be scary about the film; I'm not really a fan of her prior work (most notably Girlfight), but I'm anxious to see what she tackles after successfully pulling this off.

I can't say that the next time a film scripted by Diablo Cody comes out I won't want it to fail, too, as some of her more annoying tropes are still here (is she capable of not writing so slangily?—note to Diablo: "Wizard" didn't work in Juno, and "salty" doesn't work in Jennifer's Body). Regardless of my feelings toward her by the time the next one comes out, I'm sure I'll see it: she's two for two so far. | Pete Timmermann

 

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