Jennifer’s Body


Rating 3

Directed by Karyn Kusama

Written by Diablo Cody

Starring Amanda Seyfried (Needy), Megan Fox (Jennifer), Johnny Simmons (Chip), Kyle Gallner (Colin), Adam Brody (Nikolai Wolf), Chris Pratt (Roman), Josh Emerson (Jonas), J K Simmons (Mr Wroblewski), Valerie Tian (Chastity), Carrie Genzel (Jennifer’s Mom), Amy Sedaris (Needy’s Mom), Cynthia Stevenson (Chip’s Mom) and Lance Henriksen (Driver)

Jennifer is a flag girl, arrogant and confident. Needy is insecure and her somewhat unlikely best friend. They have been inseparable since childhood, although they seem to have little in common. One night they narrowly escape death in a raging fire when they go to see the rock band Low Shoulder in a nearby bar. Jennifer goes off with the band in their van. She returns later that night, covered in blood and vomiting a black ferromagnetic fluid, but the next day acts as if nothing has happened. Mysterious and horrific deaths follow and Needy begins to suspect that Jennifer is a succubus.


‘Jennifer’s Body’ is the follow-up film by Diablo Cody, the writer responsible for the acclaimed multi-award winning 2007 comedy drama ‘Juno’. Jason Reitman, the director of that film and ‘Thank You For Smoking’, is one of the producers here. ‘Jennifer’s Body’ was directed by Karyn Kusama, whose two previous films include the widely unloved ‘Æon Flux’. The film has met with mixed reviews and has a 45% rotten rating at Rotten Tomatoes. It grossed a decidedly underwhelming $16 million in the U.S. and has only just started to receive worldwide release.

In spite of the appalling promotion, which seems intent on putting off more potential viewers than it entices, the apparent relative failure of ‘Jennifer’s Body’ seems strange, given that it’s a horror film starring Megan Fox, who is one of the top teen pin-ups of the moment, but it’s a black comedy and comedy-horror films are manifestly difficult to promote and often underwhelm at the box office. Writer Diablo Cody also seems to elicit a mixed reaction, seemingly because she was once a professional stripper and refuses to be embarrassed about it, and I get the impression there has been an undercurrent of desire for her to fail after the success of ‘Juno’.

My first impression as I started to watch ‘Jennifer’s Body’ was that it put me in mind of the 2000 Canadian werewolf film ‘Ginger Snaps’ and although the two films do follow a somewhat different path, that immediate correlation stayed with me throughout, although I don’t think this is a patch on that earlier film. I was aware of Megan Fox, although the only thing I had seen her in was the ABC television network sitcom ‘Hope & Faith’, in which she had a nondescript role and gave a performance so wooden that I was not in the least surprised by claims that she cannot act. Her performance in ‘Jennifer’s Body’ is actually quite effective, up to a point, although I came away from it with the sense that her acting ability is limited at best. Without knowing that she had already been widely compared to Angelina Jolie (something I did not read about until after I had watched the film), I was instantly put in mind of that actress. I have always been mystified by the acclaim afforded to Jolie’s acting, which I find stiff and mediocre at best – I thought her performance in ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’ was atrocious in the extreme, entering the territory of Elizabeth Hurley at her very worst (‘Beyond Bedlam’). Fox and Jolie seem to share not only vaguely similar looks, but also similar dead-eyed acting styles.

My main criticism of ‘Jennifer’s Body’ would be that the soundtrack is often overly intrusive, competing too much with Cody’s arch and knowing dialogue, and ultimately the film doesn’t seem to have much of anything to say, apart from some vague references to celebrity and the pursuit of success. On the plus side, it is quite sharp, although not as attractive and engaging as ‘Juno’, and the presence of Amanda Seyfried is a big plus. She is very effective in the role of Needy. Ultimately, the film is neither as smart as it tries to be or the flop that some reviews have suggested. It’s somewhere in between and in a period when American filmmaking seems to be in a creative slump it is one of the better releases I have seen in a while.

Review posted 7 November 2009


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