Nice body - shame about the soul ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nice body - shame about the soul

Jennifer's Body
My rating:

Yes, I liked Juno. The affected dialogue didn't really bother me, and behind it was a genuinely sweet and touching story with some really well-drawn characters. No, I don't much like Megan Fox. Don't get me wrong, I'd do her, but there's a long list of other female celebrities I find more attractive. Jennifer's Body is something of a proving ground for both Fox and Diablo Cody, the writer of Juno - for Fox, it's her chance to display some actual talent on top of her sex appeal, and for Cody, it's her chance to prove her smash debut wasn't a fluke.

Sorry, ladies. You blew it.

Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) and "Needy" Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried) are childhood BFFs, even though Jennifer is the school sexpot and Needy is innocent and nerdy. One night, they go to a show by indie rock band Low Shoulder, and Jennifer is seduced by the lead singer (Adam Brody) and sacrificed in a satanic ritual - only to come back to life possessed by a demon. Soon, she's seducing boys and devouring them to keep herself beautiful, and Needy must stop her - especially when Jennifer begins to take an interest in Needy's boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons).

First of all, if you're going to watch this, read this review. The best horror employs its supernatural scares as a metaphor for real-life anxieties, and the best thing about this movie is that it picked a pretty cool one - the uniquely female fear of other women who have everything they don't, whether it's looks or smarts or self-assurance. If you're looking for some sexay Megan Fox action, you'll be disappointed. For one thing, this is Malaysia, hello, and for another, there isn't much even if the naughty bits weren't censored. This is, at heart, a chick horror flick, and you'll probably enjoy it better if you know that going in.

You'd probably enjoy it even more if it was actually good. The biggest problem is in the titular character. When you say "possessed by a demon", do you mean she's no longer herself? Do you mean she turns evil, which means she wasn't evil before? Well, the answer to the first two questions is no. Jennifer basically has her personality intact, plus an added demonic hunger for human flesh. So the answer to that third question - was she evil before? - is not clear. After her possession, she's bitchy and callous and cruel, and if this is how she's always been, why is Needy even friends with her?

And that's a pretty big problem right there. If we're asked to believe that Jennifer and Needy have been best friends "since the sandbox", we need to see some genuine friendship between them. But Jennifer pretty much treats Needy like dirt, pre- and post-possession, and Needy doesn't really seem needy enough to keep hanging around someone like that. At one point, we learn that Jennifer is actually the insecure one among the two; for all her hawtness, she still resents Needy for being smarter, more together, and having a geeky-but-loving boyfriend. Cool idea, but the movie doesn't go there far enough. We hardly see Jennifer vulnerable, nor does she ever seem to actually value her friendship with Needy. She needs to be a three-dimensional, fully-realized character as much as Needy is - and she's not. It's a horror film, and she's pretty much just the monster that must be defeated at the end.

Which brings me to the horror elements, and they're kinda WTFable. How does Needy figure out what happened to Jennifer and how to deal with her? She looks it up in the occult section of their school library. Aiyoo, movie, what laa?? The movie tries to hang a lampshade on it, but it can't hide the fact that this is just lazy plotting. Every supernatural story creates its own rules, but this one just seems like it's pulling stuff out of its ass, especially during the ending. After she's had a fresh kill, Jennifer is invulnerable - her wounds heal instantly, "like some real X-Men shit" - and you'd think this would be relevant later, but nuh-uh.

This is really disappointing coming from the pen of Diablo Cody. It's one thing for her to attempt the horror genre and fall short, it's another thing for her to drop the ball on characterization. There doesn't even seem to be much of her trademark contrived dialogue - probably because a lot of it is profane, and therefore deemed unworthy of Malaysian ears by the Lembaga Penapisan Filem. In fact, I have to wonder if the movie's problems was due to all the scenes they snipped. (There's a lesbian kiss between the two female leads that got cut, and although my penis feels cheated, it didn't really add anything to the story.) What you're left with is your run-of-the-mill horror movie - a few jump scares, some gory deaths, and a climactic womano-a-womano showdown.

So can Fox act? Well, to be fair, the script did her no favours - but to be fair, she didn't exactly make the most of it either. She's still little more than a walking pheromone, and although she looks like she's having fun, this role isn't gonna win her much respectability. Amanda Seyfried fares better - she's cute and likable, although frankly, the script didn't do her many favours either. Johnny Simmons does a decent job, although he looks much younger than his on-screen girlfriend. Adam Brody is fun as an utter douchebag, but sadly he's not in the movie much.

When I said "you blew it" to Cody and Fox, I wasn't being all high-and-mighty-film-critic. (Although I can be.) This movie flopped - and considering its hype, it was a big flop. I feel bad for them, I really do, and I hope they get another shot at what this movie should've gotten them. I'm giving it two-and-a-half stars for what it attempted, and I think that's generous. Besides, I found it pretty scary at parts, but then again, it doesn't take much to scare me.

Anticipation level: hey, why not?