Jennifer’s Body review
January 13, 2010
If the editorial offices of Maxim and FHM ever master the art of human cloning and bioengineering, they’d probably come up with something a lot like Megan Fox. She’s got a ridiculous body, perfect skin, pouting lips, and a voice that always sounds breathy, feminine, and slightly submissive.
So who better than Fox to play the perfect high school girl, the girl every boy wants and every girl wants to be? Jennifer has a killer body before getting mixed up in demonic virgin sacrifice gone wrong, and continues devouring boys after, though in a much more literal sense. Unfortunately, while Fox may be the perfect prom queen, she doesn’t have nearly the personality to dominate a film as the villain.
Fox gives almost every line the same delivery: Bored, dismissive, and seductive. She doesn’t have the charisma to dominate the screen as a villain, but she’s also never particularly sympathetic as a victim. She’s just a pretty, bitchy, silly high school girl who likes fucking and/or killing boys.
It’s not all on Fox. She’s hardly the best vehicle for the material, but the role doesn’t have a lot of meat to it. There’s very little depth to Jennifer, either before or after being stabbed and dumped in a demonic whirlpool. Jennifer’s friendship with Needy (Amanda Seyfried) is at the core of the movie, but we never actually see the two of them being friends. Jennifer is so self-absorbed, narcissistic, and generally dim that it’s hard to imagine why anyone would be her friend. It’s shown that they’ve been friends forever, and nerdy “Needy” obviously doesn’t have the best sense of self-worth, but that’s not enough for the audience to get behind Jennifer as a real person.
Jennifer’s Body treads a delicate line between comedy and horror, and doesn’t always keep its balance. It’s seldom scary: only Jennifer’s post-sacrifice appearance is suspenseful. After that, it’s a simple and straightforward equation: Jennifer + Boy = Dead Boy. There’s no doubting what’s about to happen, nor is there ever the slightest possibility the victim will escape. The final confrontation between Jennifer and Needy is similarly straightforward, as is the familiar process where no one believes Needy when she tries to tell them what’s going on. Most of her victims don’t have enough personality to generate sympathy; they don’t deserve their fate, but they’re still just archetypes of high school boys.
But for all its flaws, I enjoy Jennifer’s Body. Most of the credit for that lies with Amanda Seyfried, who makes Needy such an adorable, likeable heroine. She knows when to play it straight and when to be playful; her delivery on lines like “actually evil. Not high school evil” is note-perfect. Her opening and closing monologues show her as the perfect action movie heroine, like a much cuter verision of Linda Hamilton in T2. She’s clumsy and nerdy, but also smart and self-aware; unlike her co-star, Seyfried never slips into caricature.
In fact, forget about Megan Fox. Just watch the movie and think Needy the Demon Slayer, and it feels much better. It wouldn’t hurt to disregard much of what you see in the trailer, which markets itself as a) a Megan Fox movie, and b) a pretty straightforward slasher flick.
There’s also something wonderfully absurd about the demonic rock band, particularly Adam Brody’s manic ringleader. He’s sleazy and homicidal – “I think the safest place to be right now is my van” – and yet still charming and, if I were a 16-year-old girl, totally dreamy.
Jennifer’s Body is also fascinating for its lineage. Where else will you find a horror movie written by a woman, directed by a woman, and starring two women who never have to be rescued by men? It’s strange that this sort of thing should be considered revolutionary today, but Jennifer’s Body just feels different sometimes. It has its own beat, its own quirks, and while sometimes they’re a bit too self-conscious, it nevertheless stands out as a singular film. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it can be uneven and jumbled, but the sincerity and character make it feel like an adorable mutt at the pound that just wants to be loved, even if it’ll pee on the carpet now and then.