Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pieces of Jennifer's Body (2009)

Is there anything more heartbreaking than a smashed cupcake? Half the icing is gone and the cake portion is disintegrating. It could have been wonderful, perfect, everything you could ever wanted but in the end you're left looking at a gross, smushed piece of baking that you now have to throw out. Jennifer's Body is the horror-comedy equivalent of a smashed cupcake.

Jennifer's Body written by Diablo Cody (Juno) and directed by Karyn Kasuma (Girl Fight) has so much going for it and a really interesting plot that it should be my favourite movie right now. I should be removing all sources of love I have for The Shining from my apartment and replacing them with ironic Jennifer's Body paraphernalia. But lo, this has not come to pass.


Jennifer's Body is a fiercely original voice and and world presented to in a horror movie format. Whether you like it or not, it's hard to deny that. But this is where my problem with Cody comes into play. I love her ideas and her stories, it's in the execution that she loses me. Everything is too quirky, cute and twee. It's as if the window displays from Urban Outfitters have come to life and financed a movie. By creating a world that is so outside our own the audience becomes isolated by the characters that speak solely in an ironic detached manner. The characters never seem to posses a deeper level of understanding to their world so Cody's films become so superficial and uncommunicative that I can barely muster a response to them. Jennifer's Body is by far and away Cody's most intriguing film to date (probably because it's a horror movie) so let's see if we can't unearth some truths.


In the middle of nowhere there is a town called Devil's Kettle, we know this because Needy (Amanda Seyfried) is narrating the events of how she got institutionalized from her cell, Needy gets dragged by her best friend, the titular Jennifer (Megan Fox) to see indie band Low Shoulder at a local dive bar. Jennifer wants to hook up with the lead singer and when the bar burns to the ground and a lot of people are killed (yes, really), Jennifer goes off with the band and Needy goes home. The band, believing Jennifer to be a virgin, sacrifice/kill her in order to achieve fame for their shitty emo band. But Jennifer's not a virgin. ("I'm not even a backdoor virgin") and while the band goes on to achieve fame, Jennifer becomes possessed by a succubus demon which leads her to kill and eat several men in order to maintain her hot-ness and it's up to Needy to stop Jennifer, especially as she starts going after Needy's boyfriend.


The film becomes a really interesting examination of the festishization of a tragedy. After the fire at the bar, the whole town goes into mourning and Low Shoulder's Through the Trees becomes the town's anthem of survival. One of the plot lines in the film becomes about the media's obsession with the town while the people in the town seem to have a full on "tragedy-boner". Low Shoulder's fame stems from not only being on the site of the tragedy (it is implied that the fire starts because of Low Shoulder's Satanism) but also the rumour of them pulling people out of the fire.


Jennifer's Body modus operandi, however, is its feminist reading and its commentary on the sexualization of young women. Jennifer as a human is aware of her sexuality, while young she does seem in control of it if not a bit misguided. Jennifer identifies that her power lies in her sexuality and in being a sexual object. As a demon she acts on this because she must. We see her actively pursuing men, implying sex and then devouring them. Indeed this is a clear signal to men, be careful what you wish for...

The film boasts a great performance by Megan Fox who really pulls off the cocky/vulnerable dichotomy that Jennifer deals with throughout the film.  The rest of the cast is under used. There is an amazing supporting cast but it falls part when they all show up in a handful of scenes with 5 lines between them. Their costumes do more acting than they do. As a director Kasuma pulls off some wonderful shots and scenes but most of the film falls flat and is oddly confusing. Much of the action in the film is under developed and hastily shown. The gore and effects (courtesy of KNB) are wicked and add a lot to the horror elements. But unfortunately the suspense of the film falls apart as we already know who comes out of it alive and any tension is hampered by characters dueling to spit out the most socially relevant comeback.


Unfortunately for Jennifer's Body, it never manages to pull off it's main conceit, that of being a horror film. It's simply not scary. Interesting, yes. Entertaining, kind of. But scary, hells to the no. Jennifer's Body simply tries to hard to be a cult film and while it could have been, just like being sexy, you shouldn't have to try that hard. The film is a sub-par offering against the likes of Heathers, Mean Girls and Carrie. While the filmmakers had the best of intentions and some truly interesting ideas Jennifer's Body left me with figurative blue balls.

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