What Jennifer Did (2024)

What Jennifer Did Review

What Jennifer Did

All right, it’s really very simple. Your first reaction was close to being correct; so don’t think I’m about to pull some kind of switcheroo on you. The matter is more one of how she did it than whether she did it or not. This one came recommended by a student, so I gave it a watch. Honestly, I’m a little sorry for that because I thought this was the true crime doc they suggested when it wasn’t though isn’t that a strange coincidence in itself? They were both produced by RAW Productions. Is What Jennifer Did good? No. Did it fill an evening? Yes, and then some. This is just another story where you have to put yourself into it if you want there to be something to talk about afterward, which works out well for me and my blog, as I do have thoughts not many and probably not very deep ones… but thoughts nonetheless.

There are two things Popplewell wants us to take away from this film:

1) Empathy can cloud judgement.

2) Societal pressure for achievement can be dangerous.

It’s not like the movie doesn’t condemn Jennifer at all there’s enough damning footage cut together with ominous music cues throughout What Jennifer Did that make her seem like a real psycho (at one point literally just a picture of Jen in high school sticking her tongue out and that true crime chord boomed over the image so unsettlingly!). But honestly, the beat-to-beat unpacking of this story isn’t necessarily what someone would expect from an “evil mastermind” narrative, rather, it’s just comparing and contrasting this seemingly straight laced young girl against the savage murder of her mother. The film opens on the 911 call made by Jen herself who really does sound like she believes she’s in danger so for all intents and purposes she seems like our “victim” here. Her wails do sound genuine and disturbing, but for the love of Pete, the thing is called What Jennifer Did. I mean come on, there was no way this story wasn’t going to some weird dark place.

​This is me just talking all out of my ass, with no expertise or anything, just intuition. We all know there are people who study psychology and what makes people tick. But the whole thing with Jennifer that stuck to my ribs was that her crying was almost paradoxical. The movie really sells the idea that there was no remorse or emotional attachment towards her parents. There’s a part in the movie where someone comes forward and says that Jennifer had tried this before. It wasn’t that she backed down from it, it was just circumstances didn’t allow her to kill somebody then. That’s what really kind of gets under my skin a little bit about it. She cries a lot throughout interviews does Jennifer, but knowing either they were part of her mask or only there because she was scared of going to prison, the chilling part is she probably doesn’t have any morals for real. I chuckled at the cliche the lead detective brought up in his interview, he described Jennifer Pan’s crime as “pure evil” or something like that–while incredibly dramatic, there’s something to be said for that read of the murders.. It wasn’t like she slept on it then changed her mind.

Some of it comes down to acting. That phone call sounded real. Like I knew she fucking did it. Everyone did I think. But you know what we do tend to do when we know she did it? Listen for the inconsistencies . (Note: officer arguing she couldn’t make a phone call if hands were bound didn’t make sense in post-Siri universe.) But that phone call seemed totally real though. Tears in interview room sounded totally real too.. That’s what’s fucked up about this movie though man to get into a lie like that deep, I wonder what the real tears are.. That’s where my brain goes btw–it says there are no such things as real tears–there’s screaming and there’s hate in my brain. But I think that’s not how Jennifer cries when shit gets real, or she’s just one of those actors that can bring reality to life.

The movie doesn’t (for the most part) victim blame, but it kind of does.  It’s kind of a shorthand to be like “Asian family” and then Jennifer murdered her family in an absolutely horrific way because they were pressuring her to succeed.  And there is something universal about this, her sense of arrested development coupled with a massive spiral of lies.  But it feels like something is being said that’s meant to be cultural in some way. I don’t know.  I wish that the motive was something a little less on the nose, but what really bothers me about it (besides perpetuating a stereotype) is the one-to-one connection between familial disappointment and the urge to murder.  There were times in my life, especially in my early 20s, where I just felt like an absolute piece of shit. The expectation for success vs allowing me to just be my own person got me into scrapes that I didn’t necessarily love, but you know I never dated a drug dealer so there’s also that. Also probably not wired for this lol but with as many times as I just wanted to get away from everything homicide never once crossed my mind! It was always running away with an occasional suicidal coloring to the whole thing. Weird how police went from “I lied about college” to “I will hire a hitman to kill my entire family.”

It’s so weird because like I said before, I watched the other Netflix original true crime thing by RAW Productions and that one seemed far more critical of police who seemed to be using a lot of the same shorthand in order box people into their desired shapes. Sure American Nightmare balanced it out by stressing that there was a good cop who understood what it meant to be both woman and police officer rather than just opening and closing cases, but maybe watching these things back-to-back was too much because you’d think that things would have looked different but they didn’t. I even noticed that some of the language of the film was the same: both productions used the exterior of the interview room with the little light to stress that things were happening back there. It’s just that it almost felt like one had been made by people who were in on the joke and another had been made by people who weren’t, or who were but then decided to stop being.

True crime is strange to write about, especially when you’ve consumed so much of it. Some of that has to do with storytelling, but there’s a language to the true crime documentary that almost neutralizes any kind of outside-the-box thought. I keep saying I want to rewatch F for Fake by Orson Welles because I love how nontraditional the storytelling in it is. But movies like What Jennifer Did are hard to analyze because real world horror tends to be told the same way over and over again. It’s either pro-police, where we’re trying to unpack why this person went crazy and killed someone. Or it’s anti-police, where we look at how shortcuts lead to bad policing. It’s all a bit lather, rinse, repeat if you ask me. Not that it isn’t interesting. It’s just that we have a narrative coloring events that again almost neutralizes anything revolutionary we could do with these things. So until then you’ll have blogs that are the same thing every time. I can say she seems crazy but beyond that?

Also homeboy/homie was definitely just “yes and” comedy until they got a warrant for his phone which is labeled in there as “homeboy.” Canadian police really said homeboy every chance they got here huh.

Watch What Jennifer Did For Free On Gomovies.

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