A Defense of Diablo Cody’s Fated Cult Classic ‘Jennifer’s Body’
This week’s wide-release of Diablo Cody’s third film, Young Adult, calls for some reflection upon the writer’s previous works. After a scandalous burst onto the scene with her stripper-centric belle lettres, Cody released her first screenplay, Juno, which received all the praise hipsters could handle to heap onto an indie film that went mainstream. In 2007, with Toni Collette headlining, TV’s United States of Tara garnered more studio acclaim for Cody. But somewhere in the middle there, a sophomore screenplay fell through cracks. I believe we have a responsibility to resurrect it.
Despite its shortcomings in the box office, Jennifer’s Body deserves the same amount of quotable attention that Juno received. It’s riddled with even more indelible Cody-isms such as, “You’re totally jello. You’re lime green jello and you can’t even admit it to yourself.” Gelatin, abbreviations, and colors of illness — gets ‘em every time. Not to mention sexual references like backdoor virgin, Hello Titty, and lesbi-gay. Again, why aren’t people watching this?
Here’s the dilemma: Jennifer’s Body was marketed all wrong. Based on the trailer, the movie was pssh-ted off as “a trashy Megan Fox flick” or “that film about bisexual vampires.” Couldn’t be more deceiving. Jennifer is a succubus, not a vampire! Get Twilight out of your heads, you True Bloods. While there is some serious lip action between Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer never preys on girls the way she does on boys. Yet in the trailer we hear Needy say, “I thought you only murdered boys,” to which Jennifer responds, “I go both ways.” It’s not just a film about Megan Fox trying to be a slutty bisexual. That’s only one scene!
Karyn Kusama’s direction is chillingly cohesive, incorporating key symbols with such tedium that you’d think she was directing it intentionally for drinking games (hint: find the crosses and crescent moons). The story is chock full of indie rock band satire aided by religious undertones and pumped up to full volume with an incredible cast. I’m talking JK Simmons with a hook hand, Amy Sedaris as a “Ford-tough mama bear,” and Chris Pratt as almost the same low-brow dude he plays on Parks & Recreation.
The soundtrack alone is road-trip-windows-down good times. My proof? Florence + The Machine. Thanks to Jennifer’s Body, my roommate and I discovered Florence and her melodious machine before she underscored Julia Roberts eating pizza in the Eat Pray Love trailer; I’m talking back when she was playing Terminal 5 before gracing the Saturday Night Live stage. The soundtrack also includes “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You,” that song that Darren Criss sang on Glee and Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs jumped around to in 2 Broke Girls. The movie itself was based on a comic book that was based on a song by Hole (Courtney Love’s band named after lady parts). And it’s not even on the soundtrack. Classy, understated, but packs a punch — just like our best female-centric films should be.
The BFF high school drama of Jennifer’s Body flourishes in a hilarious, twisted, and unique context that ultimately revolves around a school dance, a plot point of proven success (see: Mean Girls, Carrie). But this climactic shebang brings out the menacing man-eater in Jennifer who, according to Needy, pounces on the event as if it were “an all you can eat buffet.” Because Jennifer literally eats boys! Cody takes cattiness and spins it out ad absurdum in the way that makes you laugh, makes you scared, and makes you scared of your own laughter.
Jennifer’s Body is fated to be a cult classic like its 80′s predecessor, Heathers, a film to which this one is indebted, evident by a few homages — the smoking pink script of the title and that gloriously hideous prom dress. Ok, so there’s no blue drainage cleaner or fire-singed Christian Slater. But there most definitely is Adam Brody wearing “manscara” a la Brandon Flowers as well as murder weapons from Home Depot.
By all means, enjoy sopping up Charlize Theron’s angst in Young Adult and gabbing about it with friends on your hamburger phone. But don’t be quick to dismiss the Jan Brady of Cody films (that girl probably had some deep shit going on). Jennifer’s Body is our generation’s shining example of a teenage angst black comedy. We have a cultural responsibility to embrace it. And for those who don’t, well, they’re probably just jello.
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