Unless she changes her schtick, Diablo Cody, last year’s fresh face of screenwriting success, could become next year’s Shane Black or Joe Eszterhas, screenwriters who were briefly brand names until too many of their films tanked. In Cody’s case, the rise/fall cycle’s accelerated by the way she served as the main talking point related to “Juno.” With a stripper backstory and a pin-up girl tattoo, she was a journalist’s dream, shot to fame fast, and just as quickly sparked a backlash and sophomore slump anticipation.
Five months ago, the New York Times was profiling Cody and her posse as the hot young vanguards of female Hollywood. But now Cody’s plowed that power into “Jennifer’s Body,” which has received some rough reviews at Toronto.
“Jennifer’s Body” is a slightly more mainstream replication of the elements of “Juno”‘s formula for success: starlet Megan Fox instead of starlet Ellen Page, horror comedy instead of quirky comedy, Dashboard Confessional on the soundtrack instead of Belle & Sebastian. But Cody’s signature remains her dialogue, which transcends genres and presumably just needs a more commercial facade to really make bank: a hard-to-describe amalgam of purposefully outdated vernacular, incongruous pop culture references and sarcasm all mashing up against itself.
As Steven Zeitchik notes at the Hollywood Reporter‘s “Risky Business” blog, “Body” is replete new Cody quotebombs like “Jesus fries” and “What’s up, Vagisil?” And if you wonder what that means, it appears the cast and crew didn’t know either. It’s actually kind of remarkable that Fox stood up in public and admitted that at times, neither she nor director Karyn Kusama knew what they were filming. Fox: “I’d say to Karyn ‘What does that mean?’ And she’d say, ‘I don’t know, but let’s shoot it anyway.'” Nice.
Being able to get your screenplay filmed absolutely unaltered — even when it’s a patently terrible idea — requires an almost-impossible-to-get amount of clout. When, in all probability, audiences respond underwhelmingly to Fox trying to sound acerbic and funny without necessarily understanding what she’s saying, it’ll be the last time Cody gets that kind of unfettered opportunity. Her signature will be her undoing — now that’s a cautionary whale.
[Photo: “Jennifer’s Body,” Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 2009]