“It’s okay, I’m not offended. A lot of people think we’re crazy. But I doubt they’re as happy as we are.”
Through an unsettling dinner party, The Invitation reflects the social anxiety of reconnecting with friends after a long time apart, only to find that they have changed significantly in the interim. That disquiet could not be more appropriate for a world on the brink of reopening after more than a year keeping people apart. By contrast to the disappointingly uneven tone of Jennifer’s Body, here Karyn Kusama successfully maintains the taut atmosphere throughout the first two thirds of the movie, albeit at a steady pace rather than the more skillful rise and fall of similar scenes in The Overnight. We experience the evening through the perspective of a single character, and Logan Marshall-Green plays the role as sufficiently troubled to make the audience question his reliability. Unfortunately, the final act — which should provide a sense of release once the mysteries are laid bare — instead drags far too long; as such, it fails to offer the catharsis one desires after prolonged tension.
“No. I mean, she’s actually evil. Not high school evil.”
Jennifer’s Body paired Girlfight director Karyn Kusama with writer Diablo Cody, fresh off her debut hit in Juno. Although critically panned, the duo plainly set out to create something different within the exploitation horror genre and the result has gained cult status over time even if it remains deeply flawed. Pairing Megan Fox with the more talented Amanda Seyfried only serves to highlight her acting limitations, though for the most part Fox is required simply to be sultry and unrepentant. The witty teenage dialogue that felt natural in Juno (aided immeasurably by Elliot Paige’s delivery) here sounds stilted, as if Diablo Cody is trying too hard to be youthfully cool. Jennifer’s Body may be tongue-in-cheek but its overt humour rarely lands. A pointed scene intercuts Jennifer’s seduction of a victim, stylised in the usual Hollywood fashion and softly bathed in candlelight, with Needy’s first time, brightly lit and awkwardly fumbled like a genuine and healthy teenage sexual experience. Yet, since the script ultimately still leans heavily on genre tropes, it has little fresh to say, save perhaps that Jennifer’s promiscuity had nothing to do with her becoming evil.
“Oh, you don’t want to be friends with me, trust me.”
Lately Paul Feig has carved out a mainstream niche in typically light female-fronted films, varying from the excellent Bridesmaids to the disappointing Ghostbusters reboot. A Simple Favour takes a darker turn from the outset when an overachieving single mother searches for answers after her new best friend goes missing, but it never fully commits tonally in the way of Gone Girl. Anna Kendrick may seem miscast as a sleuth but her charming naïvité, narrating her discoveries through a vlog for mothers, is intentional. Blake Lively makes it believable that the troubled and often distanced Emily would draw people in despite her abrasiveness (she certainly won me over not just through her love of Martinis but by specifically referencing Dukes Bar and its particularly potent recipe for the cocktail). This all makes for an excellent first half — unfortunately the script then unravels with a need not just to offer revelations but repeatedly to retcon characters’ pasts. The resulting conclusion is cheapened almost to the point of parody.