Bad girl, bad script, bad movie

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

OH DEAR, oh dear. The worst thing about the near-com­plete fail­ure of screen­writer Di­ablo Cody’s fol­low-up to the sub­lime Juno is that it gives her de­trac­tors – small in num­ber, but vo­cif­er­ous – am­mu­ni­tion for a coun­terin­sur­gency. See? All she does is knock to­gether smart-Alec apho­risms into a rude, dis­or­gan­ised stream. We told you she was a fraud.

Well, no. Juno had a beau­ti­ful, sleek shape and Jen­nifer’s Body cer­tainly aims to do more than raise re­peated snarky snig­gers. Tip­ping its hat to Car­rie, the film, di­rected without dis­tinc­tion by Girl­fight’s Karyn Kusama, seeks to bring the lan­guage of hor­ror to the tra­di­tional high school flick.

“Jen­nifer’s evil,” Amanda Seyfried re­marks in one of the film’s bet­ter ex­changes. “I mean she’s ac­tu­ally evil. Not high-school evil.” Un­for­tu­nately, the pic­ture’s ar­gu­ments have all been made be­fore, the per­for­mances are in­dif­fer­ent, and the film-mak­ers have no feel (re­ally, no feel at all) for the dy­nam­ics of hor­ror.

Jen­nifer is, of course, the lithe, sup­pos­edly slinky Me­gan Fox. Friends with Ms Seyfried’s bet­ter-be­haved stu­dent, Jen­nifer spends her days sneer­ing at dweebs and her evenings sneak­ing into sleazy nightspots. One evening, af­ter en­coun­ter­ing a dread­ful in­die band at a noisy dive, she some­how gets trans­formed into an ac­tual, rather than just a fig­u­ra­tive, de­mon. Much chomp­ing of male flesh fol­lows.

If you want to see a film that uses hor­ror to of­fer in­sights into teenage sex­ual pol­i­tics, then seek out Mitchell Licht­en­stein’s re­cent, icky Teeth. In Jen­nifer’s Body, the trans­for­ma­tion of the tit­u­lar bitch into a slaver­ing fiend does not sig­nif­i­cantly al­ter our per­cep­tion of her ear­lier cat­ti­ness. Now, she’s catty like a hun­gry tiger rather than an in­con­ve­nienced tabby. So what?

None of this would mat­ter if the pic­ture func­tioned as a hor­ror film, but, with a dis­re­gard for struc­ture that reeks of ar­ro­gance, Cody just flings in­ci­dents ran­domly at the screen with no con­cern for the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of ten­sion. The most egre­gious ex­am­ple of her lazi­ness oc­curs when, rather than re­veal­ing the ori­gins of Jen­nifer’s con­di­tion through action, the char­ac­ter sim­ply tells us what hap­pened on the fate­ful night.

The real shame is that, de­void of proper con­text, the di­a­logue now re­ally does seem – as the Cody-haters con­tend – like lit­tle more than a se­ries of un­at­tached, curled-lip one-lin­ers. You can do much bet­ter than this, Ms C.

Hell spawn: Me­gan Fox as Jen­nifer

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