Jennifer’s Body is a rare example of the screenwriter as auteur.
Diablo Cody, who won an Oscar for scripting Juno, has her painted-black fingernails all over this horror/comedy/teen flick mashup. She has a distinct authorial voice and specific, pop-culture interests – and absolutely no idea what to do with either quality here.
Juno was a genuinely moving exploration of the insecurities of adolescence, but Jennifer’s Body comes from the Quentin Tarantino School of Culinary Arts, in which all sorts of pop elements are thrown into a cinematic blender. Carrie, Heathers, Mean Girls and The Exorcist are only a few of the titles Jennifer’s Body remixes, all to little point.
From those references, you can probably tell what the movie involves. Megan Fox, one of the allegedly human stars of the Transformers franchise, shows surprising wit as the title character, a high-school sexpot who turns into an actual succubus after a satanic ritual goes awry. When boys around town are found disemboweled, Jennifer’s mousy sidekick (Amanda Seyfried, handling Cody’s loopy lingo well) begins to suspect that her BFF is taking her man-eating a bit too seriously.
Jennifer’s Body – the negligible director is Karyn Kusama – could have been a number of intriguing things. It touches on society’s fear of female – especially young female – sexuality, though not nearly as inventively as 2008’s comically disturbing Teeth. It flirts with being a piece of social commentary on the phenomenon of female bullying, though not nearly as pointedly as Mean Girls.
In it sharpest – though all-too-brief – moments, Jennifer’s Body lampoons American society’s obsession with memorializing tragic occurrences. (There is a 9/11 joke – yes, a joke – though the high school setting also brings to mind Columbine.) But the movie, for all its shock value, doesn’t have the brazenness to fully go down that heretical road.
Mostly, these elements are references in passing, not fully explored themes. Cody continues to be whip smart and glibly funny, yet Jennifer’s Body reminds us that the true accomplishment of Juno was its serious emotional resonance. This time, Cody often seems to be as shallow as Jennifer herself.