Sunday, September 20, 2009

She's A Man-Eater

Jennifer's Body

Imagine for a moment that the quirky and smug dialogue of "Juno" was infused into a horror movie. Then imagine the heroine of "Juno" to be replaced with a sexy high school girl who eats the flesh of teenage boys. This is "Jennifer's Body," the black comedy written by the Oscar-winning stripper-turned-writer Diablo Cody and directed by Karyn Kusama ("Girlfight"). Why would Cody turn from "Juno" to this as her next screenplay? You're guess is as good as mine, but I will tell you this much: It works. Yes, that trademark dialogue makes it into the movie, and oddly enough, it's almost more fitting here than it was when Ellen Page spoke it. For this it creates moments that are just a tad off-center, a bit too strange, and absurdly self-aware, which makes this not your average conventional teen horror thriller. When you've seen enough of those, "Jennifer's Body" is like a burst of fresh air because there's freshness to Cody's writing even when she's writing trash.

"Hell is a teenage girl," says Needy (Amanda Seyfried), the best friend of Jennifer Check (Megan Fox). Flaring hormones, the angst of being a teenage girl, female sexuality, and the sometimes frightening bond between girls who claim to be best friends are all exploited through the battle that ensues between the two leads. The best part is that Jennifer isn't even a standard queen of high school. Sure, she got the title of "snowflake queen," but that was two years ago. She isn't openly desired, and, contrary to what is written about this movie, she is not, I repeat, NOT, a cheerleader. She's on the flag team, the equivalent of being a member of the color guard who is at the same social status as the marching band. She isn't the ideal social butterfly and only heads out to acquire boys when she needs them. It just so turns out that she needs them to quench her thirst for blood. And the boys comply not because of her status, but rather, because she's hot. Jennifer is not a vampire, although she does go after throats with teeth bared, but she is definitely some sort of demon.

Needy is, well, needy, hence the nickname, and she clings to Jennifer because they're lifelong friends. Only she catches wind of Jennifer being the one getting away with grisly murders, and she becomes especially concerned when her boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons), is on the list of potential victims. Needy begins witnessing what is transforming Jennifer but becomes blindly bewildered by it almost to the point of madness. There is also something about an evil indie band led by a lead singer played by Adam Brody who is hilarious in a moment of dark comedic flair. And with such comes sly commentary on indie culture: "You know how hard it is for an indie band to make it these days?" And yet the movie accepts this culture in its style and, most notably, its soundtrack with the likes of "Little Boots" and "Florence and the Machine."

Played with surprising confidence and depth by Amanda Seyfried, Needy is the real heroine and a stark contrast against the dark-haired and sharply beautiful Megan Fox. Kusama is blunt about showing off Fox strictly for her physique as the movie is titled "Jennifer's Body" for a reason. And yet it's also purposely a tease. Fox carries a blank stare and an arrogance about her that demands for her to be, yet again, viewed as an object. Think back to both "Transformers" movies for examples. Kusama is wickedly clever and slick about turning this ideal about Fox on its head. The affect of Fox's blunt emptiness is, this time, a part of her character, not herself as an actress. This means that for the first time we are witnessing Fox's acting, and, surprise! She pulls it off. Yes, even when projectile vomiting. Those who aren't watching close enough will miss this critical point.

Oh, and why do Needy and Jennifer share a passionately-shot kiss to flirt with the edges of lesbian undertones? Well, I say why the hell not?

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