Back during the indie boom in the 90’s, these guerilla filmmakers were coming out of the woodwork making chat-heavy flicks that shifted the movie making paradigm. Guys like Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith were being celebrated for their new ideas in low budget production thanks to their dialog. The party line on reviews held these scripts up on high for what was often cited as natural or rhythmic dialog that was rich and organic enough to float 90 minute pictures without an action beat every ten minutes. These movies were succeeding strictly on the charm of their talkiest components. As much as I love Reservoir Dogs and Clerks, I have to disagree about the dialog. There is nothing natural about the talkiest parts of those movies. Smith’s actors frequently stumble on their lines and Tarantino’s casts most often sound like white people desperately trying to sound authentic while reciting lines and beats lifted from blaxploitation movies. I still like Kevin Smith and Tarantino quite a bit, but the high fives those guys routinely receive for their writing is, in my opinion, entirely undeserved.
Enter Diablo Cody and it looks like it’s happening all over again. Those indies from the 90’s were quickly absorbed into the system and have experienced their respective successes and failures which has left a vacuum. Naturally, a new wave of prodigious and enterprising young writers and filmmakers have stepped in to fill it and they’re receiving that same strange praise for not sounding like your run on the mill Hollywood hit machine. Cody wins an oscar for Juno and the world falls in love with her. To follow it up, she and Jason Reitman go halfsies on a horror film. However, whenever I hear her name, all I can think of is the movie Coyote Ugly.
Anita Lesnicki is a plain Jane high schooler in Devil’s Kettle, Minnesota. Her best friend is the school’s resident hot chick, Jennifer Check. Together, they share a quasi-lesbian codependent relationship wherein Jennifer is clearly the dominant personality.One fateful night, they head to the local watering hole to see your run of the mill indie band, but a fire breaks out and kills many people. The band manages to cart Jennifer off under the assumption that she’s a virgin and sacrifice her to Satan in order to achieve fame. Jennifer, however, has a reputation around town and is most certainly not a virgin and the side effect of this ritual turns her into a flesh eating demon that has to eat boys in order to maintain her power. Anita finds this out the hard way and has to find a way to stop her.
I’ll just say this up front because it seems like Jennifer’s Body centerpiece, Megan Fox, tends to draw a lot of fire and influences the reviews depending on whether or not the writer is enchanted by her looks or is repelled by the fact that that seems to be floating her entire career at the moment. Fox does nothing for me. I am fully aware she is the latest flavor of the month and sells tickets. I also share the opinion that she has nothing approaching acting talent but Jennifer’s Body isn’t a piece of shit because she is in it. Far from it. Jennifer’s Body is a heinous piece of shit strictly for Diablo Cody’s script. Cody’s scripts for Jennifer’s Body and Juno share one tragic thing in common: She appears to write her scripts through text interface on her cellphone. It stands to reason that she lurks in chatrooms, archives Twitter and Facebook streams and studies the forum threads on any given popular band in order to wrap her mind around the contemporary tone of the American teenager. Every passage of dialog is saturated in invented slang and jargon, operating under the assumption that this is the language of young America and it’s fucking nauseating. The people handing out awards receive these movies as though Cody is living on the edge of our evolving language and culture but listening to this mutated English is about as appealing as listening to your best friend vomit after two bottles of Colt 45 and a huge plate of spaghetti.
Hate to break it to you, everyone, but nobody talks like this. Not even the gothy kids. The generation gap is getting the best of you. Jennifer’s Body simply comes off like the morbid teenage daughter of Valley Girl.
Maybe I’m just showing my age by bitching about the way people talk in this movie but I’ll probably drive that point home when I complain about the wasted moments that could have saved some of this picture involving J.K. Simmons, who is a freakin’ genius and Amy Sedaris, who seems to require only the slightest amount of makeup to look either very pretty or very old. A brief cameo by Lance Henriksen was about the only moment in the movie that made me smile and wonder if someone in the production was actually a horror movie fan or they just needed some genre mercenary to give the picture at least some kind of horror cred.
Ultimately, Jennifer’s Body is supposed to be some kind of feminist twist on the horror formula, but it comes off as woefully misinformed. Cody attempts to warp the usual man terrorizes woman, woman turns the tables in the third act trope by populating the primary cast entirely with women and giving the men nothing to do but die. However, film scholars from within the genre as well as without, have dedicated hundreds of thousands, potentially millions of words by this point to the study of the feminist tilt of horror movies since the inception of the entire final girl concept. Jennifer’s Body does nothing to move this idea forward. In fact, it does nothing but prove that the production crew had little idea of what makes a good horror movie. The positive side of this is that it gives some relief by not bombarding you, the viewer, with a buttload of horror references to convince you that it’s savvy. Jennifer’s Body really needs that space in the script to pack in as much OMGWTFBBQ that it can cram in there.