When you win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in your first time at bat, like Diablo Cody did with Juno, it’s no surprise that expectations will be high for your next film. And when you’re Diablo Cody and a whole lot of industry people really, really don’t like you because you aren’t what they want and expect from a screenwriter, you should probably be prepared that every review of your new film—even this review—will start out mentioning Juno, and how this film isn’t as good. It isn’t. But the subtext of many of these reviews is the nasty sort of I told you so! gleeful snorts you get from people who never could and never will write anything as good. See? That former-pole-dancer trailer-trash in-your-face bitch isn’t as good as you thought! She confounded all of the artsy-fartsy pretensions of Hollywood, and was rewarded for it, and she will probably pay for that all her life. And the sad thing is, when you do write something that good for your first film, the odds are that you never will write anything as good or better, as with Orson Welles with Citizen Kane and Peter Bogdanovich with The Last Picture Show. It’s something you just have to live with. You can do perfectly good, even brilliant, work afterward, but the shadow of that masterpiece will always loom over you.
That said, this movie is at best a competent B-grade dead-teenager thriller. There’s some supernatural horseshit to justify it all, but basically, it’s just this girl who kills boys and eats their sweetmeats. That may or may not be a departure from the norm; in my experience, mass butchers in the movies are one of two types: the sexists who only kill girls, and the politically-correct equal-opportunity slaughterers who kill any person who gets in their way, gender be damned. But I don’t see enough of this kind of movie (he said, proudly) to really know if a girl-on-boy cannibal is a rarity.
With Diablo Cody’s history as a nude dancer I suspect that she was trying to work in some sort of sub-text here. Jennifer (who even before she started disemboweling her classmates was a … a word too incendiary to use here, but it rhymes with hunt) tells her best friend that, basically, your body is powerful, you can manipulate boys to your heart’s content if you just use it. That’s something all pole dancers learn, if they didn’t know it already. Cody has even written about it, elsewhere. I’m sure that must feel empowering, to know that you can literally control a boy who’s twice as big and strong as you, but I have almost the same contempt for girls who use sex in a certain way as I am of boys who force themselves on girls. Nasty people, both of them. So I didn’t care much what happened to Jennifer. Nor to the boys she killed, come to that. They just didn’t seem real enough in the first place.
Oddly, the movie only really came alive for me in the end credits, when some guys who really had it coming got their just desserts in a series of artfully-composed stills. And I almost missed that in my haste to get to the rest room and back before the next feature started!