Wasting no time, we jump right in, beginning with:
Jennifer's Body (2009)
|This art came with my Blu-ray as an insert. Pretty cool.|
I don't know if y'all remember this, but Megan Fox was a pretty big deal for a while there. She blew right the hell up thanks to Transformers, what with Michael Bay encouraging everyone man in the world to rub one out while fantasizing about her. Implicitly, if not explicitly. I have no doubt that an entire generation of boys -- and not a few girls -- have now grown up with her in mind as some sort of pinnacle of hotness, and who can blame them?
Being not of that generation, I always kind of felt indifferent toward Fox, myself. This was based largely on how much I detested those Transformers movies (especially the godawful second one, beyond which I saw no farther); I just flat-out rejected every bit of that crap. So when Jennifer's Body came along, what it looked like to me based on the marketing was a standard-issue hot-girl-sploitation horror flick, but written by the lady who'd written the somewhat overrated (in my opinion) Juno. Put those things together and for me, that equals taking a pass.
I've been hearing things over the past year or so that made me feel as if I might have had the wrong idea of what the movie was. So I put it on my list for this year, and having now seen it, I'd have to say that I was VERY wrong about what the movie is; I mean, it is what I thought it was, but it's also much more than that.
Here's what it's about. Needy (Amanda Seyfried) and Jennifer (Megan Fox) have been friends since childhood, but are very different people; Jennifer is like the Wikipedia page for "hot," whereas the surprisingly-not-very-aptly-named Needy is ostensibly a bit dowdier and geekier. She's not, really; but she kind of seems like she is. Actually, she doesn't even really seem like she is; she just seems like she seems like she is. There's an undercurrent of sexual attraction between the two, as well. Everyone seems to be aware of it, but neither of them seems particularly inclined to worry about it or to act on it, with the implication being that Jennifer uses it as a tool against Needy in order to get what she wants. For example, if she wants Needy to go to a "club" with her to see a band even though Needy has plans with her boyfriend, Jennifer pulls out a wee bit of non-flirtation flirtation and the next thing you know, they're going to the club. Once there, Jennifer begins trying to pick up the lead singer of the band, who is more than happy to be picked up, especially since the band is on the prowl for a virgin to sacrifice to Satan in order to catapult themselves out of the realm of struggling indie-rock group and into the level of Maroon 5 type stardom.
If any or all of that sounds dumb, well, I get it. I mean, who could possibly look at Megan Fox's Jennifer and think that girl is a virgin? We overhear two of the band members discussing that very thing, and the lead singer's hypothesis is that she's just like every other girl like that he's ever met in a small town: she's nothing more than a surface appearance of wildness. His bandmate is rightly skeptical of this. Unbeknownst to them, Needy overhears the conversation and is rightly angry on her friend's behalf, but she makes a crucial mistake: she thinks they are talking about Jennifer potentially being a virgin as a bad thing, a thing that would cause them not to want to pick her up. So she confronts them and says, hey, you know what, my friend is a virgin, you creeps. She reports all of this back to Jennifer, who amusedly reveals that she's "not even a back-door virgin" anymore (a young Chris Pratt apparently took care of that in his role as a police cadet). She ends up going with the band in the wake of a fire that burns the bar down (!), and, as well will find out later, they sacrifice her to Satan. However, since she wasn't entirely a virgin, she stays alive, cohabitating with a demon that drives to feed on human flesh. Let the murders of high school boys commence.
There's a lot of interesting things going on in this movie, one of the first of which comes back to the conversation in the bar about Jennifer being a virgin or not. Jennifer prior to the demon possession or whatever is kind of a c, but she's also unmistakably that. You don't know this girl without knowing who and what she is; so if you can't or don't deal with that, that's probably on you. And in this scene in the bar, EVERYONE makes an assumption about who Jennifer is and what she wants. None of them get it right, and thanks to the fact that the resultant miscommunication dooms Jennifer to being partially murdered (I don't know how else to put that), in many ways Jennifer's Body is a tragedy with her as the victim. She can't be held liable for her actions post-possession; she can only be held liable for what she does prior to that, and she's blameless. She's manipulative, yes, and she's clearly a slut. So what? Man, sluts are a godsend. I assume; they never would have anything to do with my lame ass, so I wouldn't really know.
The point is, Jennifer is super hot, yes; and she's super confident, yes; and she's proactive in going after what she wants, yes. How is any of this a bad thing? Okay, fine, underage drinking and whatnot, illegal, yada yada yada. Beyond that, and the mildly treacherous way in which Jennifer manipulates Needy, I can't find any fault in the way she behaves. But because the lead singer sees her and assumes the way she behaves must be a deception, and because Needy then feels the need to lie about who Jennifer actually is, Jennifer's ability to control her own image is removed from her hands; and she pays a steep price for it, as, eventually, will numerous other people.
Pretty much the entire rest of the movie plays out in similarly thought-provoking fashion, with Diablo Cody's sometimes razor-sharp and sometimes too-eager-to-please dialogue backing it up. I'd say the dialogue is about 75% great and 25% swing-and-a-miss, but any screenplay that contains the observation "I've got the cops in my back pocket, Needy; I'm fucking a cadet, remember?" is a winner in my book. Elsewhere, a guy invites Jennifer to go see The Rocky Horror Picture Show with him and she declines on the grounds of not liking boxing movies; great. One of the band members makes a sort of approving indication when he finds out that Jennifer is going to be killed with a Bowie knife, and the movie is smart enough to not spell out the fact that he clearly thinks it's got something to do with David Bowie. Jennifer denounces PMS as a myth started by the "boy-run media."
There's some fucking gold in this screenplay, man. And some pyrite, too, but enough gold that I do not care one bit about the moments that don't work.
In case you can't tell, I loved this movie. Top to bottom, just great stuff. Yes, yes, Megan Fox is lava-level hot; but she's also really good in this movie. It would be easy for Jennifer to come off as a stereotype or a cartoon (I'm thinking of late-series Robert Englund performances as Freddy, all posturing and playing to the back of the auditorium), and she never does. Even in her most monstrous moments, Jennifer never ceases to be an individual, one who is complicated and shallow at the same time, one who both is and isn't all surface. It's a great role, and Fox kills it.
Amanda Seyfried has the less showy role, but she's also great. She clearly cares about her friend but is also palpably jealous of and resentful toward her. Much of this seems to me to be the result of the sexual feelings she possesses for Jennifer but has never gotten around to working out, but I think the larger issue is that she just hasn't figured out who or what she is in the broader sense. Hey, some people never do; so if she's still in high school and hasn't, well, that's no mark of shame, is it?
It all ends in a satisfying manner, too, which is always a welcome note.
Finally, I'll add that I watched the theatrical cut. There's an unrated cut which is five minutes longer; no idea what it adds. The next time I watch the movie -- probably next year -- I'll check that out.
So part seven is off to a strong start indeed! Let's see if we can keep that momentum going with (pulls title out of the hat)...