Director: Karyn Kusama Release Date: 4 November Review by Jack Burton There are two major problems with being flavour of the month in Tinseltown. The first, and most obvious, is that each year is made up of twelve of the buggers and consequently your time in the sun can often be shorter than the gap between the premiere and the first DVD release (this unit of time is sometimes known as a ‘Corey Haim’). The second problem, and perhaps the more insidious of the two, is that your debut may inspire such rabid devotion from a select few that they will inevitably be disappointed with any attempt to break out of the narrow confines your own work has placed upon you. When the narrative of your rise to fame is both as coherent and well publicised as that of Diablo Cody, the tattooed, feminist, Oscar-winning, ex-stripper who penned 2007’s geek-pleaser Juno, people are always going to expect a certain degree of indie cool. This may help explain why Jennifer’s Body, a breezily fun and effective teen horror starring fanboy favourite Megan Fox as a man-eating cheerleader with just a hint of lesbian, opened to lukewarm reviews and disappointing box-office despite its obvious hit potential. Fox plays the titular Jennifer (and her body), the hottest girl in Devil’s Kettle and best friend of bookish ‘Needy’ Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried). The free-spirited yin to Needy’s sober yang, Jennifer convinces her friend to accompany her to a gig by local wannabes Low Shoulder. Before the band can finish a single song flames engulf the venue and the girls are soon running for their lives. Dazed and confused, Jennifer is convinced by the band’s charismatic lead singer (a gleefully malevolent cameo from The O.C’s Adam Brody) to flee with them in the band’s transit van, against Needy’s better judgement. Her fears for Jennifer’s safety are only partially assuaged when she turns up on her doorstep later that night, covered in blood yet grinning from ear to ear. Jennifer’s increasingly erratic behaviour is only the start of Needy’s problems, however, as her male classmates begin to disappear and she soon has to choose between her borderline obssessional friendship and her love for boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons). Jennifer’s Body is, for the most part, a black comedy in the Heathers mould. Like its predecessor it deals with teenage friendships and rivalries, exaggerating real life to cartoonish proportions for comic effect. Anyone who saw Megan Fox’s impressively self-aware supporting turn in the otherwise dull How To Lose Friends and Alienate People will not be surprised that she handles this type of material well. What is more impressive in this film is how readily she throws herself into the horror. There are a couple of genuinely unsettling and well-staged set-pieces amongst the comedy and Fox’s vanity-free commitment to the role makes sure they don’t feel flat against the more prominent comic tone. Likewise, Amanda Seyfried steps out of the blonde bimbo box and actually carries the movie as Needy, the real lead role whatever the posters would like you to think. Both are obviously relishing a chance to get their teeth into a strong script that offers up both witty one-liners and scream queen action in equal measure. And here we get to the script for, like Juno before it, this is Cody’s movie as much as its stars. She’s on record as stating she wanted the movie to explore the complex relationships between teenage girls and to speak to female empowerment. For my money she manages both, just not equally. The first she does perhaps more effectively than the second, with an interesting romantic triangle forming between Jennifer, Needy and Chip. The latter is perhaps less effective. The film is certainly no feminist treatise but then there’s no particular reason that it should be. Yes, it’s the story of a powerful teenage girl seducing and devouring her male peers and the attendant themes are not shied away from. As the title suggests, Jennifer’s Body is ambivalent about its title character’s use of sex as a weapon and most of the victims are, in horror movie terms, relative innocents. This is no female-centred revenge drama, although as the film runs out of steam towards the end, things do begin to head further down that well-worn road. Like any good horror movie, or high school comedy, Jennifer’s Body anchors its scares and its laughs in real teenage issues. Gender politics and the social battleground that is high school are certainly not ignored. Luckily it doesn’t forget to entertain the audience as well. One can’t help but think that certain expectations arising from Diablo Cody’s persona, as well as her pre-release comments about the movie’s intentions, have made something of a rod for her own back. On the surface, Jennifer’s Body may come across as a tad trivial and mainstream in comparison to the achingly hip Juno, and it’s certainly not going to win her any more Oscars. But for those of us who found her debut just a little self-conscious and self-satisfied, Jennifer’s Body offers a more satisfying mix of indie credibility and genre convention. It may not help her to regain her flavour of the month status, and it may well strike her more die-hard fans as something of a sell-out, but in the long run I have no doubt which of the two films will age the best. On this evidence Diablo Cody has what it takes to break out of the indie ghetto and play the long game in mainstream Hollywood. If she can persuade her old fans to come along with her for the ride and doesn’t bow to the pressure to relive past glories of course. Rating: 8/10