Today's blog concerns "Jennifer's Body," the latest film willing to use Megan Fox's good looks in place of acting.
You probably know that the screenwriter was Diablo Cody, the chick who wrote "Juno" as well as a memoir about being a stripper. "Juno" was all right - entertaining, kind of cheesy, with a very unique female protagonist whose name alluded to the Classical world. On the other hand, "Jennifer's Body" struck me the wrong way almost immediately.
The story began with promise - interesting, entertaining, and funny. The story began in a literary fashion, beginning in medias res before quickly shifting to the earliest point in time that the movie was going to cover.
It was at the shift that I began to notice the dialogue.
The quirky, funny dialogue that characterized "Juno" so well appears to have been attempted again - and it isn't executed as well by the character who utilizes it most (*cough, cough* Fox *cough, cough*), and it feels false.
"Jennifer's Body" features a girl who becomes different, of course - I don't think I'm spoiling the movie for anyone when I say that Jennifer becomes a succubus. Yet, it seems quite clear that Jennifer is supposed to be an ordinary girl, on the pretty side, who is far more ordinary than she would like. Jennifer would like to be effortlessly gorgeous and self-assured, and not small town. Nothing about her character, however, indicates that she modifies language for the sake of whimsy.
Juno's interesting manner of speaking suited her; Jennifer's does not.
So watching this movie really makes me think about dialogue.
Dialogue, when utilized correctly, can do so much for a story. Hemingway wrote an entire story in dialogue ("Hills Like White Elephants"). Diablo Cody obviously likes writing dialogue, and has fun with it, which is great. In order to create something that other people are going to enjoy, however, a writer needs to use dialogue that suits the character. Ultimately, this means knowing your characters well enough to know exactly how that character speaks. Sometimes, this might involve doing research. And, of course, if you're too lazy to do research, then don't write about characters who will seem inauthentic without research.
To be fair, I feel like part of Cody's problem is one that many YA authors face: authentic TEEN dialogue. When you're not a teenager anymore, how do you know that your slang is up to date? Cody's solution is to create slang of her own - cheesy slang that not many teenagers would say (certainly not cheerleaders with a reputation to uphold).
Yet we've all read those YA stories that have outdated dialogue, or in which the character talks like a goody-two-shoes, and it feels like the only reason is because the author feels uncomfortable with a teenager saying "dirty" words. Teen dialogue is a legitimate problem, as is dialogue, in general.
I don't think that making up slang, clever and interesting though it may be, should be a writer's automatic response. I'm not exactly sure what I think the general response should be, however - or even if there should be a "general" response.
And no writer wants generic dialogue.
Thoughts? (I love comments!)