Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Movie Review: Jennifer's Body

(For the radio version, please click here).

Now, how to justify seeing Megan’s – I mean Jennifer’s - Body to the public radio audience, and my wife? There has to be something socially redeemable about a horror film starring Megan Fox, the Angelina Jolie of the coming decade, in ridiculously tight clothes.  Here goes.

Hollywood is a male dominated industry.  Female screenwriters are rare. Female directors are rare. A movie written and directed by women, like Jennifer’s Body, is something akin to a meteor strike. Now a little on horror films and females. This contradicts my expectations, but horror film audiences are already primarily female. It’s what the data shows. I think horror films tend have a misogynistic undercurrent where barely clothed women are helpless confronting a faceless, murdering, male, monster. But that may not be exactly true. Film scholars point out horror films pioneered a powerful formula of female empowerment. Often, after unspeakable and graphic horrors, the last person standing is female. Think Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween or Sigourney Weaver in the Aliens franchise. "Film scholar”. Now that's a job to go to college for.

So imagine this formula, already popular with women, in the hands of two women. What is different? For one, the monster isn’t male, but a hormonally enraged sexpot. Having just recently seen 500 Days of Summer, I kept expecting Hall and Oats ‘Maneater’ to play. But perhaps that would’ve been overselling the metaphor.

I was excited to see another film by the screenwriter Diablo Cody. Ms. Cody won an Oscar for Juno and has a firm bead drawn on the angst and humiliations born by teens, particularly female teens. Her teenagers are fully fleshed, so to speak, human beings. Her caricatures, the jock, the Goth, the cheerleader and her awkward best friend, are only starting points.  Cody Diablo is proving to be the John Hughes of our time.

Ms. Cody’s dialogue is unexpectedly funny. Witticisms bubble out during intense bloody scenes. The quirk level is so high the movie is hard to define. Is it horror? A comedy? Drama?  You can’t quite get comfortable with the film’s direction.  It either drives you crazy or sucks you in.

A background story providing an occult rationale for all the evil-doings is thin. Fortunately, the need to explain what’s going on isn’t really needed and the movie is compelling when it focuses on the best friends forever relationship between Fox’s Jennifer Check and Amanda Seyfried’s Needy Lesnicky.  It is a potent mixture of love and jealousy, affection and insecurity.

The film’s revelation is not Megan Fox as Jennifer, though she delivers the goods. It is Amanda Seyfried’s portrayal of the suffering friend.  Ms. Seyfried’s Needy worships Jennifer, loves her boyfriend, and in the dawning realization of what she must do, provides a convincing note of sadness in the mayhem.

Jennifer’s Body is a bloody film that earns its ‘R’ rating. But this isn’t a stupid film, not by a long shot.  I give it three stars. It plays this weekend at Gross Alaska Glacier Cinema in the Valley. This is Clint Farr, Alone at the Movies.

1 comment:

  1. I see that Jennifer's Body is mostly getting panned with the exception of the New York Times and Roger Ebert. Good Old Ebert, he's got my back.