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The Auteurs Daily: Toronto. Jennifer's Body

 

The Auteurs Daily

Jennifer's Body

Jennifer's Body hits theaters next week, but since it's opened the Midnight Madness program in Toronto, we can go ahead and get it out of the way right now.

 

"I'm on record as liking Juno," concedes Scott Tobias at the AV Club, "and that opinion hasn't budged much amid the massive groundswell of support for the movie and the equally powerful backlash." But screenwriter Diablo Cody "has taken all the wrong lessons from the earlier film's success, doubling down on the irritating Cody-isms while getting lazy on the fundamentals. Though the film's femme-centered, horrors-of-high-school scenario is well-covered territory - think Ginger Snaps and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but with the cruelty and invented language of Heathers - there's still some metaphorical potential in the premise of a hot young thing (Megan Fox) literally devouring her pimple-faced suitors. But Cody doesn't make sense of the friendship between odd couple Fox and Amanda Seyfried, and she stop scenes cold just so her characters can trade overwritten barbs."

At the Film Experience, Lev Lewis finds that "while it is certainly true that director [Karyn] Kusama is a) unable to combine horror and comedy in any sort of resonant way, and b) build the mood or tension very much needed for horror, blame must also be attributed to Cody who insufficiently blends her already-dated, stylized pop-culture laden dialogue with 80s camp-horror."

"Like the patriot I am, I believe that any movie starring Megan Fox as a high-school cheerleader turned entrail-chomping demon deserves my devoted attention," writes Tom Carson for GQ. "Yet any flick this pleased with itself ought to be a lot more, I dunno, surprising - and less padded when Cody’s inventiveness fails, which happens often."

But Movieline's ST VanAirsdale finds it to be "a funny, brainy, mildly flawed effort that should at least temporarily put to rest the debate over whether Megan Fox is more than just a pretty face. Her performance is indeed high among the reasons to see the film, as are those of Amanda Seyfried and Johnny Simmons and the bleaker-than-ever genre conflations of sex, youth and death."

"Keep an eye on Simmons," advises Todd Brown at Showcase: "if he keeps making smart choices - he'll next be seen in Scott Pilgrim Versus the World - he's going to be absolutely huge."

"Ultimately, it's impossible to think about this film without considering your personal feelings about at least two, if not all three of the women who are at the forefront of its creation," writes Todd Gilchrist at Cinematical. "Kusama, I believe, will be redeemed by this film, at least commercially; Aeon Flux was not her fault... But while my most sincere hope is that she will get better material and make better movies from it in the future, I have no such sense of optimism for Fox or especially Cody."

Julian Sancton, filing to Vanity Fair, generally had a good time, but: "The problem with signature Cody quips like 'Why don't you just move on dot org' is that they momentarily distract you from the story as you register their unmistakeable Cody-ness. And it makes all the characters speak in the same way."

"The film is on its surest footing when it uses its horror conventions as a window into the world of female friendship - the dynamic in place between them was a problem long before one of them became possessed." Mark Olsen for the Los Angeles Times: "Yet every time one of its obligatory set-pieces fires up, the film's rhythms stop dead. Based largely on the concept of 'Megan Fox is sexy. And eats boys. No, really eats them,' the gore scenes never really lift off."

"There is something to be said about writing to your own experience, and one of the reasons I consider Jennifer's Body to be a better-than-average example of the genre is because so much care has been paid to making these kids feel authentic," argues Drew McWeeney at Hitfix.

For Tim Grierson, writing in Screen, "Jennifer's Body can't help but feel unsatisfying. Part of the problem comes from the filmmakers' noticeable superiority to the genre they're working in. Jennifer's murderous acts lack tension and are shot rather perfunctorily, as if Kusama is contemptuous of horror movie conventions but is unsure how best to parody them."

"While not exactly lifeless, Jennifer's Body sure could be fresher," agrees Justin Chang in Variety. "[T]his high school horror romp tackles its bad-girl-gone-really-bad premise with eye-rolling obviousness and, fatally, a near-total absence of real scares."

Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay interviews Kusama.

Updates, 9/14:



"Dramatically inert and neither funny for scary nor sexy, Jennifer's Body is the kind of failed film that can only come from deep, collaborative miscalculation," writes Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog.

"And yes, Megan Fox is terrible," adds Glenn Kenny. "A black hole of pout, gloss, and sway."

Update, 9/15: Ryan Stewart, who also interviews Cody for Slant: "Jennifer's Body represents a cornucopia of ideas, both comedy and horror, and the determination of the filmmakers to simply play the odds of getting more elements right than wrong instead of pursuing a purer vision makes it a mixed viewing experience, though often a very strange and funny one."

Updates, 9/17: "A premeditated cult classic - they're kind of like 'pre-worn' designer jeans - Jennifer's Body seems designed more to be quoted than watched," offers Nick Pinkerton in the Voice.

Sam Adams for IFC: "Kusama and Cody seem to have forgotten one of the core rules of the genre: It's only a horror movie if you care who gets killed."

More from Josef Braun (Vue), Marcy Dermansky, Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York) and Benjamin Sutton (L).

Aaron Hillis interviews Cody for IFC, while ST VanAirsdale talks with Kusama for Movieline.

Updates, 9/19: "The combination of the overexposed Cody, the wildly overexposed Fox, and a much-hyped girl-on-girl kissing scene didn't augur well for this movie," writes Slate's Dana Stevens. "Surely it was going to be a snarky, schticky mashup of Twilight and Girls Gone Wild. Instead, Kusama and Cody's collaboration is a wicked black comedy with unexpected emotional resonance, one of the most purely pleasurable movies of the year so far."

"Yes, the movie's gory set pieces are executed with more carnivorous glee than formal discipline, and its story is as full of holes as some of its disemboweled victims," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "But coherence has never been a significant criterion for horror movies. If it were, we could forget about Dario Argento and Brian De Palma, half of Hitchcock and most of the entries in the Friday the 13th series. And though it is too soon to install Jennifer's Body in that blood-soaked pantheon, the movie deserves - and is likely to win - a devoted cult following, despite its flaws."

"Admittedly, this is the stuff of lurid adolescent distraction, not great cinema," concedes the Washington Post's Ann Hornaday. "Jennifer's Body is strictly a niche item but provides a goofy, campy bookend to Drag Me to Hell on the B-movie shelf. Watch it, forget it, move on."

"If Jennifer's Body were either entertaining or ultimately had a point, it would have a good enough reason for existing," writes Stephanie Zacharek in Salon. "Even if its star, the bodaciously built Megan Fox, were sexy in anything but a plastic way, you could make an argument for it as gore-fest eye candy. But Jennifer's Body - directed by Karyn Kusama, from a script by Diablo Cody - is so contemptuous toward its own characters, and its audience, that it chokes off any visceral thrills it might have offered."

"Not since Halle 'Hit and Run' Berry transformed her Academy doorstop into a litter box has an Oscar winner embarrassed herself in such a manner," growls Scott Marks.

More from Grant Brissey (Stranger), Alonso Duralde (MSNBC), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Peter Hartlaub (San Francisco Chronicle), Mary Pols (Time) and Mike Russell (Oregonian).

TIFF 09: Index; full coverage; lineup.

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