Underneath the “knocked up at 16” afterschool special premise of Juno was a movie about a girl struggling to define what a family is and whether love really exists. In the same way, Jennifer’s Body has the equally schlocky premise of a demon-possessed, man-eating, cheerleader skank when in actuality it’s more about the phenomenon of “best friends forever” and the sometimes symbiotic, sometimes toxic nature of those relationships. It’s far more interesting than the TV ads and reviews would have you believe.
“Sandbox” besties (so called because they established their BFF status in the playground when they were kids,) Jennifer and Needy, are not quite polar opposites but they inhabit different pages in the yearbook. Jennifer is the jock, the flirt, the prom queen and Needy is the geek, the introvert, and the one with a steady boyfriend. Where most movies would make the divide between them too wide, this one shows us how both Jennifer and Needy get what they need from one another. Jennifer needs constant validation of her genetic superiority. She is the fearful queen asking the mirror who the fairest in the land is. She’s also fashionable, street smart and creates whirlpools of excitement wherever she goes. By contrast Needy is something of a dead battery. She needs the charge Jennifer provides her with and once fully powered, the friendship starts to work… for a while. Until it becomes clear that Needy is going on to bigger and better things than Jennifer whose shadow she is unable to escape from, and Jennifer well, she’s the girl who fears that she peaked in high school, looking for any way out. Once Jennifer is possessed by a demon, the movie amps up this theme to ludicrous extremes.
Something that is misunderstood by many moviegoers is that this isn’t a good girl gone bad story, Jennifer is already kind of bad to start with. The demon is just a device to exaggerate Needy’s decaying perception of her once best friend and force her to cut her ties altogether so that she can be her own woman. They’ve outgrown each other and the demon story forces them to confront this inevitability. The movie never pretends this is an easy decision for Needy, Jennifer is shown to be extremely fragile and when Needy finally gives her the verbal beatdown she’s had coming you kind of feel sorry for Jennifer. Except for the part where she tried to kill her and eat her boyfriend.
I should warn you: It’s not scary. At all. Jennifer is far too fun a character to be scary and the dialogue far too stylized to let us sink into comfortable unpreparedness. It’s a mashup of cool ideas (High school maneater really eats men! Indie rock band turns to black magic to stand out in overcrowded market!) that sometimes work and sometimes don’t but are never boring choices. I’m sure someone else will watch this movie and see a feminist revenge fantasy about the men who turn girls into sex objects and the women who eat their hearts but no matter how you see it, it’s one of the more provocative films of the year.
Also Megan and Amanda making out is totally hot.