Jennifer’s Body

Posted: 10/08/2009 in Film Review [Archive], Review, Uncategorized

Question: How do you market a subversive feminist indie horror-comedy from an academy award winning screenwriter?
Answer: You package it as an exploitation flick and only release footage of Megan Fox being slutty.

That’s how the geniuses at Fox seem to operate anyway. Forget the fact that we just got through the media backlash against Megan Fox brought on by Paramount’s carpet bombing publicity for Transformers 2, and just plaster her image everywhere. There’s no way that could fail, right? Apparently that tactic failed so terribly that people think I’m making a dumbass joke when I tell them it’s actually a great movie. Well Megan Fox’s acting is fairly flat and Diablo Cody still needs to transition as a writer who delivers great short stories into someone who can deliver nuanced character studies that add dramatic weight to her unique insights and razor sharp comedic instincts, but it’s still an indispensible slice of pop that turns the genre on it’s ear.

Ever notice how in the oh so cleverly postmodern Scream franchise- whose killer app is discussion and deconstruction of the cliches of the genre it resides in- never bothers to question why most of the victims are women, that they exploit female weakeness, and punish them for stepping outside the bounds of conventional morality? I won’t hold it against you if you didn’t, because the point of Scream was a vindication, a justification for the morbidly self indulgent and systematically misogynist brand of film it represents.

There’s no tedious metafiction to be found in Jennifer’s Body, instead Cody’s screenplay wisely leaps forward to show us what it looks like when the sexual predator is a woman preying on the stereotypical weaknesses and insecurities of teenage boys (primarily their sexual appetite), shining a very bright and uncomfortable light on the tropes that most mainstream audiences have become desensitized to over the course of three decades of screaming, bleeding teenage girls. It’s viciously, gleefully exploitative in a way that is sure to offend and anger a lot of male viewers and makes no apologies for it.

What is probably most interesting and unique about Jennifer’s Body isn’t it’s insights and commentaries on teenage sexuality or high school politics but Cody’s manifesto of shit kicking take no prisoners feminism. Amanda Siefried’s “Needy” transforms from spineless wallflower into a plucky self assured vigilante who refuses to appeal to male authority or muscle for help in a way that few contemporary teenage girl protagonists do. When the system, conventional morality and rule of law fail her Needy doesn’t give in or let justice slip through her fingers. She rolls up her sleeves and gets shit done no matter what the personal cost. Perhaps it’s fitting that the perpetually overshadowed and underestimated protagonist got completely lost in the signal to noise conflict between Jennifer’s Body the film and it’s marketing, the ultimate poetic justice in a film set in a world that is never fair and frequently punishes the unconventional.

I could talk some more about the film’s feminist dialectic, Jennifer’s character arc and her willing victimization or what the conflict between Needy and Jennifer has to say about the confrontation between sensible emotionally honest sex positive feminity and “female chauvenism,” but instead I’m going to tell you to go out and buy a ticket. This movie needs you, and needs you badly if what it has to say is ever going to make any impact. It’s smart, funny, hip, and will speak directly to you in ways that very few movies do.

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