Sunday, September 20, 2009

through the treeeeees

I didn't hit an opening night showing of Jennifer's Body, but manfriend and I did head to the theater for a morning show this Saturday. It's always refreshing to go to an early show: cheap tickets, no lines, a theater almost entirely to yourself. So I went into the movie in a pretty good mood. The film that followed certainly didn't blow my mind, but I left the theater in the same good mood as I'd entered it.

Make no mistake, Jennifer's Body is a B-horror film, and to approach it with any other expectations will probably lead to you leaving the theater demanding your money and time back. But if you can approach the film with the right sensibility, you're likely to exit the theater pleasantly surprised. The film follows Jennifer and Needy (short for Anita), life-long friends who still consider themselves totally besties, even though they've grown up into two extremely different people with different values. Jennifer is the high school sex kitten. She's manipulative, selfish and insecure. Needy, however, is far more reasonable and self-aware, except for her friendship with Jennifer. When Jennifer runs off with a Satan-worshipping indie band (led by a hysterical Adam Brody), she's sacrificed as an offering for their success. Only problem is, Jennifer is an impure sacrifice. She's not a virgin. Thus the ritual turns her into a man-eating succubus preying on some of the sweetest boys in her high school.

Despite Jennifer projectile vomiting black bile and scooping blood out of a victim's chest cavity, the movie wasn't as gory as I'd expected. Where it really shines is its examination of toxic friendships, particularly among high school girls. Jennifer and Needy share a dynamic that almost every woman kind identify. We've all either been in that situation or we've witnessed it. There are also far subtler references. Jennifer is on a binge cycle, especially poignant when a character mentions her history with an eating disorder. Jennifer and Needy, played by Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried respectively, embody their characters fully. Both shine in this film. Amanda Seyfried's performance probably wasn't a surprise (she's been fantastic in Veronica Mars, Big Love and Mean Girls), but I was quite charmed by how perfectly Fox embodied the role of Jennifer. The two characters are so different but share such a realistic dynamic, that I found myself recalling toxic friendships that I'd been a part of during high school (and also flag practice).

This may not be the feature film follow-up to Juno that Diablo Cody fans were hoping for, but it's a smart and self-aware horror film. The Satanic indie band Low Shoulder's song "Through the Trees," becomes a tongue-in-cheek anthem for the town's tragedies, and now whenever I flip through the radio, I hear three indie rock songs that sound exactly like it. Makes you wonder how many girls have been sacrificed in the Minnesota woods.

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