Now I get what everyone was bitching about last year with Juno. You know, all that stuff about how screenwriter Diablo Cody’s dialogue was too self-conscious and how Cody desperately trying to sound cool and hip even to the point of distraction. It didn’t bother me with that film because the characters felt real — the way they talked may have been a bit artificial, but it helped create a heightened sense of reality for a situation that was all about underscoring the awkwardness of being a pregnant high schooler.
In Jennifer’s Body, the new movie from former stripper/current Entertainment Weekly columnist Cody, it’s as if everyone knows they’re a character in a film. As a result, these characters are forced to say something clever every few minutes for the invisible audience who is listening off in the ether. This bit of fourth-wall knowing — the notion that these characters know they have to play to a crowd — is the only bit of substance there is in Jennifer’s Body.
If Juno had seemingly real people doing their best to cope with difficult circumstances and trying to keep a sense of humor about themselves as a focal point, Jennifer’s Body is focused on the hope that its audience really, really likes ’80s slasher flicks and will get a kick out of a few nods toward them. Oh, and that you will enjoy seeing Megan Fox make out with Amanda Seyfried even if it makes little sense within the context of the story.
Cody has been saying all sorts of things to anyone who will listen about how Jennifer’s Body is supposed to be some sort of allegory about adolescent girls, from their bitchiness to their best friends to their disordered eating. But all that’s here are a few placeholders, points in the story at which some allegory could have been inserted later. The possession of Fox’s Jennifer by a demon is the starting point for metaphor and satire, not the ending of it except to Cody and director Karyn Kusama, who still has yet to show us she can make another film like her startling debut, Girlfight.
This point might have worked if pre-demon Jennifer and possessed Jennifer were any different. But no. Jennifer before her possession is the hot popular cheerleader, but she seems nice enough, and even her sexuality is played as sweet and adventurous, not slutty. Which is how it should be: if there’s one aspect of Jennifer’s Body that I do like, it’s the casualness with which it depicts teen sex and a refreshing lack of freaking out about the idea of kids as sexual beings.
But where’s the satire when an ordinary high school girl becomes possessed by a demon and then goes on a killing rampage of people who never did her any harm? Is the now-possessed Jennifer picking on random boys in the most violent ways possible meant to be amusing, or pointed, or something in the least bit fascinating?
Random might be the word that best characterizes Jennifer’s Body, from the supposed-to-be-but-ain’t nerdiness of Seyfried’s Needy Lesnicky to the shocking act of destruction that opens the film: if Satan were as real and as powerful as it is implied here, he would have had a hand in that act, and we’d have enjoyed the implication that there truly is some awesome evil power behind all these bloody shenanigans.
Instead, the only awesome power Diablo Cody seems to be aware of here, is the power of the non sequitur. It’s all over Jennifer’s Body, and it ain’t the doing of Satan.