Megan Fox’s latest film, “Jennifer’s Body” made me think of a quote I’m sure I’d heard when I was younger: ‘Beauty has its own reward’. I studied long and hard (i.e. did both a google and yahoo search) to find the root of this saying and came to the conclusion my mind had been playing tricks. Convinced it was some solemn historical quote, I now suspect it was probably just a sharp line in a film that seemed so profound at the time I misjudged it as having originated at a time when people seemed ‘deeper’, y’know, the Greeks, Romans, Shakespeare, somebody foreign.
This in itself reveals a prejudice towards the value of something that isn’t a million miles away from how I view the films of Megan Fox. She is, of course, beautiful, and maybe that’s a reward in itself, but everytime I’ve seen her on the big screen I connect it with cinematic awfulness. My brain may have started to create neural links not dissimilar to Pavlov’s Dogs, who were taught to salivate for food when they heard a bell. Any suggestion of Megan Fox in a film immediately has my hand putting my money back in my pocket and walking out of the cinema like I’ve just narrowly avoided a particular nasty mugging.
It’s probably unfair on Megan Fox to single her out for criticism on the sole tenet of being aesthetically pleasing. Since it began, cinema has always been littered with beautiful woman. In the best case scenarios Beautiful Actresses have also turned out to be great Actors: Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, Jennifer Connelly; there are more, but it’s not really about them.
Early on in her career Jennifer Connelly might have ended up having a career not too dissimilar to Megan Fox’s. They’re both statuesque, curvaceous brunettes, but the comparison stops there. Jennifer Connelly fulfilled her ‘eye candy’ role with ‘The Rocketeer’ – Damsel in distress playing second fiddle to Bill Campbell’s Jet Packed superhero. The film didn’t make the sort of telephone number figures at the box-office that Fox’s Transformer movies have managed, but it had two things that Transformers 1 & 2′s combined five hours of screen time failed to achieve. A coherent story, charm, and a heroine whose role in the film was integral to the plot, and who you cared about. She wasn’t just some fit bird who only made you wonder what she looked like naked (although as a teenage boy – that’s not to say that thought didn’t come up).
It may not be down to Fox that, for such a Beautiful figure, she clogs up the screen more than illuminates it. Perhaps, in the right directing hands, she could deliver a performance that might throw away the notion that her sole purpose in films is to look pretty and leave it at that, but ‘Jennifer’s Body’ cements that reputation.
Scripted by the Oscar winning writer of ‘Juno’ – Diablo Cody – early reports suggested that the story was all those things you connect with its writer: witty, post-modern, and possibly a ‘feminist’ leaning horror movie. Sad to say, ‘Jennifer’s Body’ is none of those things. Although the two main characters are women, they’re not a patch on the strong female characters we’ve seen emerge in the last twenty years of cinema. Think of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in ‘Aliens’ or Jennifer Lopez’s Karen Sisco in ‘Out of Sight’ (both scripted by men) to get an idea of the disservice Cody’s done to the sisterhood.
It also isn’t helped by some leaden direction. The movie centres around the relationship between Jennifer (Fox) and her best friend Anita ‘Needy’ Lesnicky (Played by Amanda Seyfried, who you may have seen playing Meryl Streep’s daughter in ‘Mamma Mia’). An idea of the level of sophistication this film’s running on is that, to underline how much less attractive Needy is, they give her a pair of glasses. Needy by name and nature she dutifully plays second fiddle to Jennifer’s cheerleading manipulative bitch, who coerces her to some gig at the local town’s scummy waterhole. A fire ensues but they get out, and Jennifer accepts a lift from the Emo band who’d been playing and who, it turns out, are the crappiest Satanists ever witnessed in a movie (they get their incantations off the web – I know this is meant to be post-modern ironic but it just makes them naff rather than sinister – possibly the intention, but it didn’t work for me.)
After killing Jennifer in a trade for commercial success, the band dispose of her but she returns, able to survive only by feeding on horny teenage boys. Only Needy can stop her, but by the time this comes about you’ve stopped caring one way or the other. The majority of the film takes place at their high school, but the sense of peer group dynamics and just basic horror movie etiquette never really gets a look-in. Jennifer is hot, we know this because she features prominently on the poster and by people’s reaction to her at school, but everybody else is playing the sort of cameo role that not only makes them instantly forgettable, but leaves us with very little sense of the terror created on campus by a Demon that feeds on testosterone filled teenage boys (not least if you happen to be in that demographic.) Everything seems to be a little too knowing but without ever having earned our acknowledgement, and it paled in very bad comparison to those films that did it well, like ‘Scream’ or ‘The Faculty’.
Transformers 1 and 2 also suffer from that now very twenty first century conceit that if the CGI is amazing enough everything else won’t really matter. It does, it really does, and what brought it home to me was ‘District 9’. It may not have had a fifth of the budget of those films, but it managed to put together a well told story that engaged both heart and head (two vital organs more than Transformers) with effects that built on the story, rather than compensated for a lack of it.
Megan Fox may yet pull something out of the thespian bag, perhaps playing a beautiful girl who dresses as a boy because she prefers girls who tragically end up killed by small town homophobes (Boys don’t Cry) or playing a barely recognisable prostitute who ends up killing her Johns (Monster). Maybe she’ll achieve the impossible and play an attractive young woman in a really good film, in a role we find both believable and care about, but, having seen that she’s signed on for Transformers 3, I won’t hold my breath just yet.