Film on Fridays: Jennifer’s Body is a Total BustSeptember 19, 2009
Jennifer’s Body is terrible. No, not just high-school terrible, actually terrible. I know, if you plan to see Jennifer’s Body, you’re going in with low expectations, but none of your expectations will be met. You’re strictly better off doing something else. See it on DVD if you must.
What you might expect:
A cheesy but sexy horror-comedy about Megan Fox fucking a bunch of dudes and then eating them. Basically a Sam Raimi movie with more cleavage.
What you get:
A dull, lifeless snark-fest, incompetently directed, with no actual awareness of horror or comedy tropes, let alone affection for them. And it’s not even that sexy. Basically a Scary Movie with more cleavage.
OK, so it’s not scary. Plenty of horror-comedies aren’t scary.
It’s worse than not scary: it’s boring. There’s no sense of suspense at all. We’re set up to know, from the first minute or so, that Megan Fox is behind the killings and Amanda Seyfried survives. We know exactly who’s going to die, who isn’t, and when. Spoiler alert: there is nothing in this movie to spoil. There is no surprise at any point. Worse, the plot moves as if there were surprises to come. Hitchcock could torture viewers just by showing a character walking down a hallway, because he made sure the hallway was the last thing on the viewer’s mind. He knew how to heighten the climax by extending the foreplay. Director Karyn Kusama (Aeon Flux, also terrible) thinks a five-minute hallway shot creates suspense, so she plunks them in before even the most obvious plot twists. Hitchcock once said the sexiest thing in the world is a Victorian lady bending over to pick up a hanky and showing a bit of ankle. If Kusama heard that, she’d immediately hike up her jeans and start waggling her ankle in her lover’s face.
But it’s got to be funny, right? With a cast like that?
Well…no. You’d think Diablo Cody’s one-liners would be funny if read with enough aplomb, but the better the actor reading them, the more embarrassing they become. And this movie wastes the time of some wonderful actors. Adam Brody, who singlehandedly made two seasons of The O.C. watchable, is the perfect smart-ass to play an evil Satanic indie-rocker. He makes a boring role memorable by refusing to deliver his cheesy lines in any but the driest, most distant tone. If Brody and his smarmy, ironic charm had been given more screen-time, he might even have made this movie scary. But he’s kept far in the background, and has to deliver the stupidest speech in the movie on top of it all. Ubiquitous character actor J.K. Simmons also works a small miracle with a three-line role as a hook-handed, shell-shocked biology teacher. He turns a completely flat character into a moving, tragicomic take on loss and grief, using nothing but a soulful smile and a few well-chosen pauses. But these two, combined, only take up two minutes of a 102-minute movie.
Wait, but it’s not even sexy?
Nope. The movie even fails as soft-core porn, with Megan Fox in the title role. That’s sort of like sneaking into a Junior League judo tournament, smuggling a length of bike chain into the ring, and losing. Ms. Fox, of course, ranges between luscious and stunning, and the costumers deserve plenty of credit for squeezing her into some of the most tantalizing outfits she’s ever worn. Fox herself, hyper-aware of her own attractiveness, dispenses a measured, manipulative sexuality that in real life would drive men to utter distraction. But in Cody-land, boys only stare and grunt when Megan Fox unleashes her cruelest charms on them, showing less desire for her, and less fear of being devoured by her, than a burrito might.
Only Amanda Seyfried — she’s the star of the movie, by the way. Her performance is predictably cute but otherwise not very exciting — only Amanda Seyfried displays any emotional reaction to Megan Fox’s overtures. More than prurience drives me to say that there should have been more scenes like the one where Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried make out. When Fox’s tongue enters Seyfried’s mouth, for the first and last time in the movie the audience doesn’t know what happens next.
So I guess I shouldn’t go see it, huh?
Well, if you’re an über-feminist, and a shockingly boring person, and you’d spend ten dollars and two hours just to sit through a movie with no redeeming qualities other than that it vaguely confirms your beliefs, then maybe. Otherwise no.