We watched Jennifer’s Body last night, fairly expecting to be entertained, but somewhat cautious just the same. Turns out it’s brilliant, but the victim of unfortunate marketing. Here’s my take on what went wrong (and right).
Generic reasons to have skipped Jennifer’s Body
1. Megan Fox
Megan is an interesting gal, as evidenced by this recent New York Times Magazine profile, in which she’s revealed to be crazy. . . LIKE A FOX! Through some fault of her own, Megan has become the pinup girl for the Maxim-reading, Axe Bodyspray-wearing set, a fact that did nothing to boost the box office for Jennifer’s Body: a horror movie pulling triple-duty as an arch observance of teenage femininity and send-up of pop-culture. Young women should have been the target audience here, even if JB is one of the more authentically scary movies I’ve seen in a while. Yet the ladies — who otherwise would’ve dragged their loser boyfriends to see it, “cuz it’ll be fun!” — were put off by the sleazy marketing campaign, which centered entirely on Megan Fox’s come-hither sluttiness. Everything from the trailer to the poster reeks of sleazy opportunism, only a notch classier than a late-night “Girls Gone Wild” advertisement. So, even with Megan’s “hotness,” the fellas could not be bothered to stop playing Call of Duty XII and get their bongwater-soaked asses to the theater. Not without the all-important girlfriend catalyst, which did not manifest. Will Hollywood never learn that marketing takes half a brain? Repeat after me: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is NOT a buddy road comedy.
2. Audiences are tired of slick Hollywood horror
I think the thrill is gone with assembly-line fright flicks. Not that Jennifer’s Body is one of those, but you can’t tell from the marketing. In addition to Megan Fox, this movie had the lovely and talented Amanda Seyfried (full crush disclosure), Amy Sedaris and JK Simmons! Plus a cast of younglings who could actually act and played their parts to the hilt. Yet you’d never guess any of this from the promotional push.
Legitimate reasons to have skipped Jennifer’s Body
1. Diablo Cody
Everyone’s favorite 1980s-fixated stripper-turned-screenwriter is a charmed hack. But she does have an imagination. And when her words match her vision, clever things have been known to happen. On the other hand, she’s overexposed and gets way too much attention (which she clearly craves). It’s one thing to have charm and wit; it’s another to bludgeon audiences with self-congratulation over the fact. I almost walked out of Juno due to precocious overload, but after the first 30 minutes, Cody’s script stopped trying so goddamn hard and found its footing. So, if you avoided Jennifer’s Body because of its cause célèbre screenwriter, I don’t blame you one bit. But you’re missing out on one of the the sassiest talkies of the year.
2. Megan Fox (see top entry)
3. Looks stupid
You know, The Proposal looks stupid, too, but people went to see it in droves for some reason that I cannot fathom. And, although they have nothing in common besides the fact that they are movies, Jennifer’s Body is infinitely smarter than Avatar. Oh, by the way, don’t tell me you don’t watch faux-indie rom-coms like 500 Days of Summer — a movie that put me off doe-eyed Zooey Deschanel like she was the bearer of a deadly avian flu strain. Those flicks are WAY dumber (not to mention predictable and condescending). By contrast, JB may look stupid, but I guarantee it’s a lot more clever than the last five flicks you’ve seen. Still, I can see why you’d make the mistake. So you’re forgiven. But NOT for that week when you wouldn’t shut up about Garden State.
What Jennifer’s Body really is
1. One of the snazziest horror-comedies ever made.
This is a hard subgenre to get right, and most of the flicks that do end up becoming slow-burn cult classics. Take An American Werewolf in London, for example. That movie had a similar tone, walking a fine line between satire, silliness and straight-up horror. Audiences at the time (1980) were not prepared for a movie like that, perhaps due to the prevailing “who put chocolate in my peanut butter” attitude that marked the Reagan Years. I guess we haven’t advanced all that much. People liked Clueless and Mean Girls just fine. Some were even down with the remake of The Hills Have Eyes (Seyfried alert!). But put ‘em together, and there’s just confusion. People are dumb.
2. Charming, expressive, scary and, yes, sexy
All of the characters have a chance to shine here, from Megan Fox’s titular ho-bag to the “indie” band to the chump boyfriends to the perma-hungover moms. Much has been made of the Sapphic scene between Seyfried and Fox. I’m not one of those fellas who’d recommend a movie because of a “lesbian makeout session,” but if you’re gonna watch ONE scene with two attractive young women swapping spit (along with vitriol, and bafflement and dejection), make it this. Keep in mind the context: Jennfer’s Body is about the phenomenon of feminine friendship and the confusion and loathing (self and otherwise) it can inspire. Like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the more recent Adventureland, JB refuses to portray young adults as hormonally-afflicted caricatures. There’s a tenderness here, beneath the flesh-rending and demonic gobbledegook. But that stuff’s awesome, too. And you GOTTA see the “indie” band scene. It’s for the fucking ages, trust me.
In summation, rent this movie, recommend it to friends and do your part to ensure that Jennifer’s Body attains the cult status it so rightly deserves.