Film review by: Witney Seibold
“Hell is a teenage girl.” So begins “Jennifer’s Body,” a film directed by Karyn Kusama, and written by “Juno” screenwriter Diablo Cody, two women who, no doubt through experience, have been able to sharply observe the catty dynamic shared by high-school aged girls, which is laced with an equal mixture of regard, admiration, heroine worship, hatred, resentment, and a small amount of sexual tension. “Jennifer’s Body” also adds the unexpected element of cannibalistic monsterism, which seems oddly fitting in this universe.
Jennifer is the prettiest and sluttiest girl in school. She has a killer body, and knows how to use it. She can have any boy she wants. She is played by magazine cover model Megan Fox (who may be a bit too old fro the role, but who throws herself into the material with a delightful amount of enthusiasm). Jennifer’s best friend is Anita, but who goes by the apt nickname of Needy (Amanda Seyfried). Needy is slightly nerdy, a little withdrawn, and likes having a sexy best friend to go to concerts with.
At some point along the way, though, Jennifer urns from a catty sexy best friend into a legitimate succubus who not only seduces the boys of her school, but eats bits of them as well. Needy is observant enough to intuit what’s going on but, as is typical in most horror films, no one will believe her, not even her well-meaning boyfriend (Johnny Simmons). Does she rat out her best friend? And how will the high school power dynamic change now that one of them is a supernatural killer?
Diablo Cody has been accused of writing characters who don’t speak like real human beings. While there may be some grounds to this accusation, “Jennifer’s Body” steers mercifully clear of dialogue that sounds fabricated, and instead breaks for characters who are witty and like to banter. The cast takes the dialogue, and manages to make it believable, and Kusama creates a believable high school landscape that it, at once, clichéd and totally realistic.
I especially liked the film’s views of sex. Needy, while clearly not the vamp of the school, is still sexually active, and manages to have an open sex life with her boyfriend; no virginal shrinking violet is she. The film also seems savvy to the fact that most teenage boys, while titillated by the idea of a slutty girl, may be kind of suspicious when she comes on to you. This is a film that knows the ways teenagers think and act about sex, and how it can be used as a way to shore up a relationship, or used as a weapon against someone else. This is a mercifully frank and un-shy film. Yes, there is a sexy Sapphic kiss in the film, but it actually bothers to make sense.
My biggest fear going into “Jennifer’s Body” was Fox. I had not seen any of her films up to this point, and was afraid that she was coasting on her good looks to land acting jobs in action blockbusters. It turns out she is a very game actress with enough skill to easily get by in “Jennifer’s Body” and perhaps enough talent to become a good actress. As for Seyfried, she’s growing on me, and I eagerly await her performance in Atom Egoyan’s upcoming movie.