Jennifer's Body - Why The Guilt?
@Emma_Not_Anna finds out there is more to Jennifer's Body than just blood splattered cleavage...
Jennifer’s Body is definitely one of my guilty pleasures, yet I often wonder, why the guilt? Perhaps because the box office figures suggest it’s a ‘flop’, grossing just over the films budget of $16,000,000. Still, if we go by that logic, Transformers would have won an Oscar. A box office ‘hit’ does not necessarily a good film make. Critically, the film received mixed reviews, the general consensus seeming to finger wag that it doesn’t know what it is, comedy or horror. Pick a side Cody, you can’t just roll both genres into one, taking a satirical, tongue-in -cheek look at high school, relationships and an insatiable need for acceptance. Oh wait…
On first look, Jennifer’s Body features a pretty girl, her slightly less pretty friend, a kiss between said pretty girls and strategically placed blood in cleavages. On a second look, it’s so much more. The angsty small town of ‘Devil’s Kettle’, and the offbeats that reside there, provide the perfect backdrop for the bizarre goings on. Mean girls with blood. Jennifer (Fox) and Needy (Seyfried) play unlikely BFF’s, Jennifer at the top of the social ladder, and Needy aptly at the bottom. In order to maintain her super-cool status, Jennifer drags Needy to the gig of yet-another-painfully-average-indie-band ‘Low Shoulder’. Wanting more notoriety than playing their cousin’s bar mitzvah, Low Shoulder are hunting a sacrifice to offer up to the rock gods. Leader Nikolai, played by the no longer adorable, guy-linered Adam Brody (The O.C), kidnaps Jennifer, mistaking her for a virgin (yeah right). As Nikolai lackadaisically plunges the knife into Jen, whilst singing ‘867 5903’ over her desperate screams, the rest of the band look on passively, as if he were carving a pumpkin. It’s a disturbing watch. Jen survives the attack but now needs the blood of boys to remain her drop dead gorgeous self, leading her to commit a spree of gruesome murders.
The film is shrouded in metaphors with Cody constantly making the implicit, visually explicit. Jennifer’s evil manifests itself through her bloody sacrifices in a sort of post-Carrie fascination with blood. Jennifer often plays with the carcases of boys, as if toys in her own creepy, corpsey Hamley’s. She no longer just wants boys, she needs them, and Needy, is no longer the Needy one. This power shift is realised when Chip, Needy’s cutesy condom-stashing boyfriend becomes the next target of Jen’s thirst quenching mission. The film reaches its peak when Needy takes a box cutter to Jen’s throat, slashing the sadism right out of her. This lands Needy in a high security facility for bunny-boiling bitches, but she breaks out (obviously), having absorbed some of Jen’s powers. The film ends with Needy’s revenge on Low Shoulder, who’ve now gained enough notoriety from sound tracking small town killings, to rent a moderately expensive room at the Double Tree Hilton. As the blood bath ensues, a cover of Blondie’s ‘In the Flesh’ plays us out, and we’re left feeling thoroughly creeped.
Perhaps the problem with Jennifer’s Body is that it carries a heavier message than audiences expect. Casting Fox is often a double edge sword; she normally attracts big audiences, but is often underused and dismissed as being just a pretty face. Both Fox and Seyfried’s performances here are utterly believable and desperately underrated. Part of Cody’s filmic inspiration actually comes from brutal a murder involving a Low Shoulder-esque band that ‘sacrificed’ a virgin for the same grim reasons. Dark, right? Just like Juno, Cody has something to say here, she just wants us to work harder for it. If you thought this film was a light-hearted look at teenagers, sex and growing pains, guess again. Although scattered with comedic Codyisms and a kick ass soundtrack, it’s darker than most black comedies, more sarcastic than most satires and stranger than most fiction.