Friday, July 26, 2013

Jennifer's Body

There were three reasons I was intrigued by Jennifer's Body. First, because I actually quite liked Juno and wanted to see more by Diablo Cody. Second, because I'd read reviews talking about how it was an interesting horror genre take on female friendships - specifically toxic female friendships. And third, because I'd read that Megan Fox actually does a good job in it, suggesting her less than stellar acting in the Transformers films is perhaps not the fault of the actress herself.

But to be honest, none of those things were enough to convince me to see it until recently, about four years after it was released. Really, it's a good thing I didn't go to see it in theaters because then I would have been disappointed. As it was, I was just mildly grumpy.

All of the reasons I wanted to see the film did turn out to be true. It is a movie about toxic female friendships, and that isn't something that's been mined properly quite yet, outside of perhaps Heathers and Mean Girls which became classics precisely because so many women recognized where they were coming from. And Megan Fox actually does do a pretty good job, partially because she was so appropriately cast, but it definitely bolsters the idea that perhaps the problem is directors not asking much of her instead of her not being any good. I've not seen enough of her movies to make a stronger hypothesis than that.

And the movie did have Diablo Cody's trademark humor and quirky dialogue, so there was that. The problem is that I'm afraid that either she didn't get as many revisions as she needed or perhaps Jason Reitman was able to give notes/make changes to bolster her strengths. Because at the end of the day, Jennifer's Body really fails. There are just too many balls in the air, and too much that either isn't set up properly, or is set up and then fumbled when it comes time for pay off. It just isn't structured well and it's trying too hard or maybe not hard enough, I couldn't figure it out.

For example, the basic plot of the movie is there is a band that wants to sacrifice a virgin to make a deal with a demon for fame and fortune. They assume that Jennifer is a virgin and sacrifice her, but since she's actually not, things go wrong and she gets possessed by the demon instead.

But since the sacrifice wasn't a virgin, then surely something terrible goes wrong with that, right? It's the core of the inciting incident, that they aren't providing the right thing for the ritual. What are the consequences for them? Nothing. Not a thing, they get their fame and fortune because it doesn't actually matter for the ritual, really.

And that's just one example in a movie full of things like that, where the writing just isn't as strong as it could have been. It's like a comedian trying out new material who gets a couple awkward chuckles from the audience and decides that's good enough and keeps using it.

In the end, the movie is at least a horror film focused on women, directed and written by women, so I at least am happy about that. And really, it is better than quite a few horror films that I've seen but the bar isn't all that high there. It wasn't a waste of my time, but it isn't something that I would tell other people to watch either. Let's just wait for the next one, I'm sure somebody could take this theme and make something amazing with it eventually.