9.11.2009

Midnight Madness day 1: Jennifer's Body (2009)

Throughout TIFF, Kris and Joe will be doing "shared" reviews, in which we'll offer our opinions on a particular film in a single post. This is day 1.

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Megan's Body, uh er... Jennifer's Body, the second coming from stripper turned Juno wizard Diablo Cody, is a teen horror flick in the same vein as Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It's a teen sex comedy with all the glee and gore of an Elm Street flick.

The first midnight madness film to kick off Tiff was one i was looking forward to the least at the festival. My expectations were pretty low. I haven't seen Juno and have vowed never to put myself through that. I'm not a fan of Megan Fox, or teen sex comedies either.

Yet, with my expectations in the ground it was nice to have my enjoyment rise like the the undead.

Jennifer's Body is about the hot girl in high school (Jennifer) becoming possessed by a demon, which she needs to feed to stay alive. To feed her hunger she takes to eating various boys at school. All this told from the perspective of Jennifer's nerdy best friend Needy who is, surprisingly, our protagonist.

This film, as i suspect is the case with Juno as well, is a future classic. Think Heathers or Weird Science, but made today. Jennifer's Body will, like a cheese, age really well. The obvious metaphors in place here for teens in high school (having the popular girl in school be a boy eating demon?) secures its place as a future cult favourite.

For today however, i felt the film didn't deliver on some of the goods... even with my expectations shot. For a horror movie the scares were pretty standard, not too much new or innovative here. The writing can be at times beautifully honest such as a pretty realistic sex scene and the way all the adult characters are portrayed however, the writing is also this films achellis heel. Coady's use of invented slang and wit should conjure up more similarities to Heathers, but here it only makes the whole ordeal feel less engaging, and towards the end and i was ready to throw the Heathers comparison out the window for Idle Hands.

The performances are top notch, Megan Fox is mostly just Megan Fox, here and there she does shine but she felt more dull then i would have liked, which i guess works better for her character. Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls, Big Love) really steals the show as needy best friend Needy. She brings all the right elements to the table for her character in a role unlike one i've seen her play in before.

Another mentionable performance is that of Adam Brody (The O.C. and uh.... The O.C.) who i don't particularly even like. Mostly because i felt he always plays a shy nerd, which i know is just a front so he can get chicks... what an asshole. But in Jennifer's Body he actually just plays an asshole which he is really good at.

The whole aesthetic of the film is pretty fantastic, from the sets to the use of colour and in particular the cinematography.

For the Tiff screening the big names of the cast were in attendance as well director Karyn Kusama, producer Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Coady... who by the way used to be a stripper.

I always forget the energy of a midnight madness show always makes a film seem better than it really is. So walking out of Jennifer's Body i thought it was pretty great. But after a good night's rest and the roar of the crowd far behind me i could make up my own mind on the flick.

In conclusion, Jennifer's Body isn't anything spectacular. As a horror film it isn't all that scary, as a teen drama it doesn't take itself seriously enough, and as a teen sex comedy it isn't crude or satirical enough. Mix up a film with short comings going in many different directions and you got yourself a cult hit.

Can't believe there's nine films left... whoa. I hope i make it through this. Next up Daybreakers, I really hope Willem Dafoe is there.

-Dropkick

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Last night marked the kick off to the Midnight Madness program, and while the film shown, Jennifer's Body, isn't likely to be the best of the program, it certainly is the most buzz-worthy, and offers the most star-power. Megan Fox stars as high-schooler Jennifer possessed by a demon after a failed satanic sacrifice. OC's dweeby-cum-dreamy (really?) Adam Brody plays a dickish leader of an aspiring "indie rock" band, and is the one who botches said sacrifice, giving Jennifer that nasty demon. Gloriously and atypically frumpy Amanda Seyfried plays Jennifer's best friend - and ultimately her worst enemy - Needy, and is the narrator of the tale.

What seemed to draw everyone to the film (aside from Fox's assets), was the presence of Juno-scribe Diablo Cody, who picked up the pen once again to churn out the script for this one. You either like Cody's dialogue or you're not too crazy about it. I'm in the latter camp - I find it rings false, is too "snappy", and seems written expressly in order to cement her status 20 years hence as some kind of modern day John Hughes. The film was not frightening, occasionally funny, and a sub-Tarantino hatchet job of teen comedies/horrors that were made a few years before the stars of this particular film were born.  However, despite all these things, I actually liked the film. Or rather, I liked most of the film.

As I mentioned earlier, the dialogue didn't work for me, but there were a couple quiet actions onscreen that rang true and really captured the awkwardness and overflowing hormones of high-school. One thing that struck me as particularly touching was a two second shot of Jennifer and Needy's hands after they've been tightly clasped at a rock show, the imprint of Jennifer's grasp still visible on Needy's hand, slowly returning from white to rosy pink. And the funny/real/awkward sex scene between Needy and her beau, Chip (Johnny Simmons) was nice. Sound and production design were very good. There were a few really cool set-pieces, but some of the ones that should have been BIG failed to deliver (i.e. the prom).

I found Fox to be a distraction, as well; the real stars are the tough but vulnerable Seyfried, and the (unfortunately lost in the glitter) assured direction of Karyn Kusama, two apsects of the film that I think will be its greatest strengths when everything comes out in the wash. Oh, and JK Simmons was awesome too.

Anyway, not a bad way to kick off MM, and a film that would certainly be fun to throw on with friends a few year's hence. Pretty sure this'll be huge with the high-school set when it comes out theatrically in a month or so, and equally big on DVD among the same group. For genre fans, though, it's a bit too tame. In the Q&A following the film, an audience member asked Cody if she would be offended by a comparison of "her" film (everyone kept referring to is as such, and I almost felt embarrassed for the grievously slighted Kusama) to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I don't think the comparison is a stretch at all. Jennifer's Body came off a slightly bloodier version of a Buffy episode, which isn't to say it's bad, but merely to place it in a familiar context.

Once the hype and the star power fades, and Jennifer's Body stands naked and shivering, there's just not enough substance behind the beautiful faces and snappy bon-mots to make it worthwhile. However, as Kris said after the film, this one seems to have been tailor-made to provide endlessly quotable dialogue, and to improve with age. Like Heathers. Like Carrie. Unfortunately, Jennifer's Body can't leap through time, and I fear the next 15-20 years on the road to cult classicdom are going to be bumpy.

- the coelacanth

3 comments:

La Sporgenza said...

Film number 1 from the TIFF's 2009 Midnight Madness program that I'm never going to see.

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