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DVD Review: Jennifer's Body

Dec. 31 2009, Published 6:15 a.m. ET

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High school is tough enough without your best friend becoming a demonic killer. For Needy (Amanda Seyfried), the going gets downright bloody when she suspects that her sinfully hot BFF (Megan Fox) might be behind the local murder spree that leaves a string of local boys looking like -- to quote a bereaving mom -- “lasagna.”

In Jennifer’s Body, director Karyn Kusama and writer Diablo Cody carve a delicious satire that takes no prisoners. The DVD edition, which hit streets this week, includes Cody and Kusama’s commentary -- arguably one of the best tidbits to hit home entertainment this year. The movie’s unfettered dialogue speaks loud and clear to their seamless, joint vision, but their discussion about it further highlights their comfortable dynamic together, and their intention to say something about teen girls without heavy proselytizing.

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While Cody is already known for her smart, spot-on take on the teen condition (She won an Oscar for teen dramedy Juno in 2008), the voice in Jennifer’s Body is more streamlined, and creates characters that are broader, and perhaps more universal than the precocious, self-aware Juno or the family on Showtime’s United States of Tara. As the nerdier of the two main characters, Needy not only suppresses her own radiant beauty but also her confidence, so that she’s believable as the kind of girl who could be in such an inescapable friendship. As the killer hottie, Jennifer is the classic popular girl who wields power with a cropped shirt and manipulation, yet desperately needs male attention.

What separates Jennifer’s Body from other such takes on teen girls’ dark side is the palpable bond between Jennifer and Needy -- that kind of fearful co-dependence in which young women build each other up and tear each other down in a precarious dance. Far from the flat cliques in movies like Heathers and Mean Girls, Cody and Kusama draw the intimacy and the agony of that dynamic, and point out some of their favorite moments throughout the commentary. A simple moment of hand-holding and release in one scene is subtle, but speaks volumes for the filmmakers. The sweet, realistic dynamic between Needy and her boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons), meanwhile, was part of what sold Kusama on Chip’s casting.

Amanda Seyfried
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In addition to the filmmakers’ commentary over the theatrical cut, the DVD also features an extended cut with thoughts from Kusama. In her solo discussion, the director takes a more traditional approach to commentary and discusses some of the decision-making behind each scene’s edits. During Fox and Seyfried’s languorous romantic encounter, for example, Kusama delves into the eroticism of the scene, why Needy’s hesitation was important and why certain beats were left out of the final cut.

Jennifer’s Body is a stark -- if not completely over-the-top -- look at a seamy underside of relationships between teen girls, and offers only a modicum of relief at the end. With its commentary from two smart women with obvious mutual respect, the film’s DVD edition offers a happy ending.

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