Monday, September 21, 2009
Movie Notes: The Informant and Jennifer's Body
God, when Steven Soderbergh just doesn't try so hard, he really makes some phenomenal movies. It's interesting to put this movie side-by-side with his other whistleblower movie, Erin Brockovich, a movie that I very much liked but which draped itself in the earnest strivings of its main character. Here, Matt Damon's Mark Whitacre drapes himself in self-serving lies and a seemingly unending labyrinth of deceit, and the film does a great job of bopping along without ever truly taking the audience into its confidence. Smart stuff. (A big assist in that regard has to go to Marvin Hamlisch's dextrous score.) Damon's performance is full of humor and indignation -- it's not a generous take on this guy, but it's a committed one.
Okay, to get the Diablo Cody stuff out of the way: I hated the first half-hour of Juno, but I didn't hate Juno. I'm annoyed by Kate and T on United States of Tara, but I LOVE United States of Tara. That cutesy, overly verbal, try-hard dialogue is certainly present in Jennifer's Body, though like in Juno and Tara, it's relegated to one character, really. Would I like to take a comb through the script and remove about 50% of the quippiness? Sure. But the difference between Cody-speak and Joss Whedon-speak is slimmer than you might think. Anyway, if you hate all that, there's going to be no convincing you anyway. Me? I grit my teeth through the "move on dot org" cringers and as my reward got a smart and seriously funny horror comedy. The ads are misleading in that they promise a high-school allegory, where the Mean Girl is literally evil; and she IS, but Jennifer doesn't get bogged down in metaphors. In their place, we get great interplay between an always-excellent Amanda Seyfried and a shockingly effective Megan Fox. I'm not ready to tag her as a great actress or anything, but the girl knows exactly the attitude this movie requires of her, and she's pretty magnetic. It's not a flawless movie -- there are pacing issues that I can't entirely nail down, Amy Sedaris is wasted -- but I enjoyed the shit out of myself watching it.
Also, I need to shout out the pitch-perfect casting in this thing. So many excellent actors in tiny parts. Sedaris is wasted, yes, but Cynthia Stevenson and Chris Pratt and JK Simmons seem like they're just there to deliver one impeccable line and then be on their way. And can we talk about Adam Brody for several minutes? I liked him on The O.C., of course, and he's been delightful in tiny roles in The Ten and Smiley Face. But he is utterly perfect here, from the very first second. He's both an embodiment of every fake-soulful, guylinered emo rock band you've ever hated AND actively sending up that very over-the-top hatred you have for them. He hits every single line just right and was my favorite thing on the screen.
Bottom line, this feels like a success to me (even if it royally tanked at the box-office). And super-duper bonus points to whoever decided to throw on Hole's "Violet" right before the end credit sequence. Absolutely divine, and it kind of makes up for what I found to be the irritatingly self-conscious presence of "Doll Parts" in Juno. Kudos!