La Not-So-Petite Morte: Jennifer’s Body

Jennifer’s Body deserves more attention.  You should definitely watch Jennifer’s Body.  I give up: there’s almost no way that I can talk about this movie without sounding like a creeper.  Watching Jennifer’s Body is a refreshing experience, as the movie takes a jaunty and semi-upbeat stroll through the teenage monster movie genre.  Though the movies are quite different, I wasn’t that surprised to learn that Jennifer’s Body was made by the same crew that made Juno.  Rather than dealing with teenage pregnancy, this movie tells the story of two best friends, and the bloody end of their friendship; we’re given a front row seat to the narrator’s transformation from a sweet, self-assured, but largely unassuming young woman into someone driven to extremes by violence, danger, necessity, and isolation, certain of the importance of her actions despite knowing that no one will believe her.  Contrary to the claims of most critics (and even some audiences, since the movie was panned by Rottentomatoes and IMDb), I think the film is quite good.  Perhaps you’d care to find out why?

For one thing, it convinced me that Megan Fox’s bad reputation from Transformers had more to do with Mr. Bay than with any innate lack of ability on her part.  I can’t say that she was amazing in her role as Jennifer, but her performance left me thinking of my own time in high school, and I thought her initial character was perfectly credible.  After her transformation, well, she does “not quite right” pretty well too.  Oh, and she also manages to be freaky when she needs to be, though she is helped by Amanda Seyfried’s wonderful performance of being absolutely bone-deep terrified.  It’s not a movie that’s big on slap-your-cheeks screams, but despite not truly scaring me it did a wonderful job of selling the main character’s unbalanced terror.  Seeing her gradually overcome that terror is one of the best parts of the movie.

Adding to that sense of fear and unsteadiness, adults in this movie seem wonderfully incredible.  I mean that in the original sense: it’s hard to believe them, and they rarely seem to be reliable or sensible authority figures.  In fact, the true villains are all adults, and none of the other adults have their shit together well enough to do anything about them, let alone realize that they’re the villains.  The clear discrediting of the adults in the movie is an almost perfect way to remind you of what it felt like to be a teenager.

Better yet, in clear contravention of the usual teenage movie tradition, Jennifer’s Body posits the existence of healthy and happy teenage sexuality, involving sex between caring partners.  Usually sex in movies about teenagers is little more than the prelude to a puritanical morality tale telling you that sex is a) bad, b) dangerous, c) will automatically get you pregnant no matter what, d) cannot happen in a healthy and happy way.  I’m quite happy that this movie goes against that norm.

In fact, the existence of a healthy teenage sexuality does a lot (in my mind) to mitigate the clear connections between sexuality and Jennifer’s predation.  If anything, the trust and enjoyment our narrator and her boyfriend obviously share make it clear that Jennifer’s hungry and violent seductions are not the only sexual option on the table, which is, again, refreshing.  This is a little less obvious, given that *SPOILERS* the one example we have is ruined in the moment, as it were, but everything leading up to it suggests that what we see is the panicked exception to the happy norm. *END SPOILERS*

Ok, I think I’ve told you enough.  I don’t actually want to ruin anything for you, and I really do think that you’ll probably enjoy it.  Give it a whirl, let me know what you think.  And don’t forget to watch through the first set of credits all the way to the end.

I saw the Unrated version, and while I don’t think there’re many differences, that’s the one that I’d recommend.


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