It’s been a while since I’ve defended a movie I’m passionate about so I thought it was high time I did it again. This time it’s the much-maligned Jennifer’s Body, starring Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox. Released in 2009, Jennifer’s Body was stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody’s much-anticipated follow-up to Juno, the movie that won her a Best Original Screenplay Oscar. On top of that, it was directed by Karyn Kusama, whose breakthrough film Girlfight won her nationwide acclaim (then Aeon Flux happened). The pedigree behind the film pretty much assured the film would be a success, both critically and commercially. Sadly, that was not the case. Jennifer’s Body was received poorly by critics (it stands at a 42% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 47 on Metacritic) and had a lukewarm domestic box office take of $31.5 million. I actually really like Jennifer’s Body. I don’t love it, but I’ve noticed myself liking it a little bit more every time I watch it. I don’t believe it deserves all of the hate it gets, and I’m here to tell you why.
I won’t go over the plot in detail since most of you reading this have probably already seen it, but in case you haven’t: the film centers around Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) and Anita “Needy” Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried), two best friends (since their sandbox days) from completely different sides of the social spectrum. Jennifer is sacrificed by emo rock band Low Shoulder (led by Adam Brody) so that they can become famous. The catch is that they were supposed to sacrifice a virgin, which Jennifer most definitely is not (she’s not even a backdoor virgin!). Rather than killing her, she becomes possessed by a demon and must feed on young boys to stay alive. Needless to say, this tests her relationship with Needy, who is also working on her relationship with her boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons).
A major complaint with Jennifer’s Body is Diablo Cody’s script. Ultimately, I think this was because people were still experiencing Juno fatigue at the time of its release. Re-watching it this week I really didn’t find the dialogue that bothersome. For the dialogue, Cody-isms like referring to a vagina as a “front butt” or using the word “salty” to describe a hot boy aren’t particularly annoying to me, and the more I watch the film the more natural I find it. I remember seeing Jennifer’s Body for the first time in theaters and thinking that all of the dialogue felt awkward and forced (and a wannabe Heathers/Jawbreaker/Mean Girls), but I didn’t feel that way upon re-watching it. My what a difference 6 years can make! There are pop culture references aplenty in Jennifer’s Body, and most of them are completely random (Aquamarine, anyone?) so they definitely make the film feel a little dated, but overall I don’t think it hurts the film. Also, I’m completely ashamed to say that I refer to people as “lime green Jell-O” every now and then. Don’t judge.
Critics claimed that it Jennifer’s Body was neither scary, funny nor gory enough. I don’t really agree with any of those statements. It has gore, but it’s not overtly gory. I don’t think it needs to be though. It has some scary moments, with the flashback to Jennifer’s sacrifice being one of them. The humor is subjective. I think Jennifer’s Body has several laugh out loud moments. But obviously, if you don’t like Cody’s writing, you aren’t going to find it funny. To give you an idea of my sense of humor: the Boston Market reference when Jennifer is devouring the rotisserie chicken cracks me up. I think “Do you know what this is for? It’s for cutting boxes!” is an ingenious line. I don’t care what anyone says. And I can’t deny that I laugh out loud every time I hear Fox scream “I am going to eat your soul and SHIT IT OUT Lesnicky!” in the pool scene. Not to mention the bit about needing a tampon when she gets impaled on a metal pole. These are things that I didn’t find that funny when I first saw the film, but I found myself laughing uncontrollably this time around.
I need to get this out of the way before I continue: I don’t hate Megan Fox. I don’t necessarily think she’s a good actress, but I think she’s perfectly suited for this role. Essentially, she is playing a character that most people assume she is in real life (which may be the case, but I’ve never met her so I can’t comment on that). She plays a vapid bitch and it works here. I also think she handles Cody’s dialogue relatively well. It doesn’t come across any more forced than Heathers did in the 80s. She also has a really creepy grin. I think she was taking lessons from this guy:
Amanda Seyfried took me by surprise in this movie. Her first scene is a bit jarring (especially if you are only used to seeing her in Mean Girls and Mamma Mia!). Her badass-ness comes across forced in the first scene of the film, but as the movie progresses she grows on you. By the end of the film I totally bought her switch in character. This is the movie that actually sold me on Seyfried’s abilities as an actress, though I think she is great in everything she’s been in.
The rest of the cast for this movie is insane. I can’t believe they got so many cameos but they did. Chris Pratt pops up for a hot second in the beginning, JK Simmons has two funny scenes (which he steals, obviously), Amy Sedaris and Cynthia Stevenson have thankless roles as concerned mothers. Kyle Gallner has a small role as a goth kid who decides to ask Jennifer out on a date at the wrong time (and I still think it was a missed opportunity not to play Cobra Starship’s “Chew Me Up and Spit Me Out” during his death scene. It was on the soundtrack for God’s sake!).
I don’t have any problem with the plot or the direction it goes, other than the fact that the origin of Jennifer and Needy’s friendship isn’t really explained all that well. It is a very well-made film (there’s a great Carrie homage when the local bar burns down in which Needy follows a trail of fire on one of the beams on the ceiling) and doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are a few too-convenient plot developments, like how Needy can hear Chip screaming in the pool house when she is clearly too far away to hear him (and the pool house looks like a painted-on backdrop in the shot when she begins running to it), Needy finds out how to kill a demon a little too easily and for some reason she can telepathically detect when Jennifer kisses Chip.
Another thing to note that I think has been overlooked is that this is a horror film starring women that was also written and directed by women. With the exception of The Babadook, I can’t think of a recent film that can say that about itself. Jennifer’s Body has a lot to say about female relationships and friendships. The fact that Jennifer is actually the one who is jealous of Needy may be a bit on the nose, but it doesn’t stop it from being a reality of so many girls’ friendships. Of course the hot girl is actually deeply insecure and unsatisfied with her life. Of course she would want to steal (and kill) her only friend’s boyfriend just to feel better about herself. The moment at the end of the film when Jennifer actually gives up the fight once Needy rips the BFF necklace off of her neck is a really nice touch that I think gives a beautiful sentimentality to the film.
I realize my thoughts on this movie have been long-winded, so please excuse me (and my run-on sentences), but I’m very curious to know what all of you think. Have any of you found that, like me Jennifer’s Body grows on you the more you watch it? Or do you still loathe it and find it incredibly annoying? Let me know in the comments below!