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Monday, 8 November 2010

Jennifer's Body (2009)

It is probably fair to say that the critics had their knives out for screenwriter Diablo Cody's sophomore effort after her Oscar win for "Juno". That film found favour, not just for Cody's snappy and hip dialogue, but for its smart casting, particularly with Ellen Page, who brought her words and insights into teen emotion to vibrant life. Unfortunately despite more of the same here, dressed in the trappings of a would-be horror film, much of the dialogue falls flat with a cast that is trying just a little too hard.

Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried play a pair of mismatched 'best friends' since childhood, although it is hard to see what binds Seyfried's sensible character Needy (not that she is 'needy' in the least) to Fox's teenaged femme fatale. When they go to hear a new band with a 'salty' (i.e. hot and sexy) lead singer at the local dive, the joint inexplicably bursts into flames. The girls escape, but many are left dead. Fox then takes off in the band's van and it eventually emerges that these wannabe popstars reckon that they can get Satan on their side if they sacrifice a virgin. Big joke, since Fox is self-evidently an experienced and knowing trollop, and she emerges from their ceremony as a razor-toothed succubus with a taste for young male flesh. That's the so-called 'horror' part of the story as she begins to munch her way through a foreign exchange student, a jock, and the class nerd to keep herself looking fit. Unfortunately, even with the occasional lashings of blood, the film is neither sufficiently scary nor suspenseful for any horror aficionado.

In her first lead role after her decorative turn in the two "Transformers" movies, Fox's acting chops are not really stretched or tested. She looks great and sexy, but the film is overly careful with her teasing non-nudity. And I have no idea what her would-be lesbian make-out scene with Seyfried was in aid of, other than Cody's throwing everything but the kitchen sink into her poorly structured screenplay. Yes, there was the occasionally clever line (I for one was taken with Fox's being invited out to watch "Rocky Horror" and retorting that she doesn't like boxing movies), but the script was striving too self-consciously to be both 'with it' and knowing. Seyfried was marginally the better showcased actress, as she alone became aware of the changes in her not-so best buddy. However, the plot took her finally over the top in completely unbelievable ways. If this was meant to set up a sequel, forget about it folks.

The film is largely an all-girls effort from Cody (who was also one of the producers), the two female leads -- none of the male roles are that strong, and the director Karyn Kusama. This was only her third feature after her success with "Girlfight" back in 2000 (a film I found impossible to warm to) and the messy sci-fi flick "Aeon Flux" in 2005. She brings little to the table in terms of helping the viewer to decide if they are watching a black comedy or a failed horror flick. Ultimately the film may find its fans, but it is really nothing more than a disjointed tale about a flesh-eating cheerleader!
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