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Credit: Miramax

Why Parker Posey should have lived in Scream 3

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Nov 16, 2020, 3:00 PM EST

Ranking the movies within a franchise can be divisive, but the general consensus is that Scream 3 is the worst in the Ghostface killer series. Behind-the-scenes script changes, unfortunate micro bangs, a bloated plot, and characters who shift motivation at the drop of a hat to keep the mystery alive make this the most maligned of the four installments so far. (Scream 5 is coming!) The movie-within-the-movie scenario fits the self-referential tone, but the overall execution is not worthy of Sidney Prescott.

However, while Scream 3 is as ropey as a Stab script (and one that requires addressing the sexual predator in the room), one character makes this a fun movie to revisit. In doing so, it becomes clear that Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey) deserved better than her bloody demise. To celebrate Posey's birthday this month, here are the moments that made us fall for Jennifer and why there should be space for her to return (yes, even though she was killed).

Credit: Miramax

From the moment Jennifer first spars with Gale Weathers, the real-life iteration of the character she's portraying in Stab 3, Posey straight-up delivers a memorable and laugh-out-loud performance in a Scream film that is the most forgettable. Not only is she serving up the lime skirt suit costume perfectly — to Gale's lemon creation — but she goes from fawning to combative when she realizes Gale has little time for her. Posey is a scene-stealer who plays Jennifer as neurotic but tenacious while always dialing into the absurdity of the scenes.

She wants to learn from Gale specifically to help with her character study, but she isn't against passive-aggressive digs. The way she shadows her counterpart while also firing off an insult is the multitasking queen this movie deserves — and she doesn't even come after Gale's bangs, which are fair game. "The ruthless ambition, your private self-loathing, and that lost and lonely little girl inside" is Jennifer's attempt to both crack the Gale Weathers psyche and to provoke. The chemistry between the two women is crackling with irritation on Gale's behalf, but Jennifer is used to getting her own way, which makes it impossible to look away from the battle of wills. Farce levels are cranked up by Jennifer's big 'do and blonde highlights, which further reinforces the horror of Gale's current bang situation.

Jennifer does not keep a cool head, but considering how quickly the bodies stack up that is hardly surprising. After the first three deaths, she tips into full-blown panic mode because the killer is targeting people in the order they die in the film and she knows Gale is next on the list. This makes her the next possible victim, and suddenly being so close to the person she is playing is not the boon to her career that she thought it would be. Self-awareness is intrinsic to Scream, but not every character understands the stakes or rules involved — even if Randy Meeks makes an appearance from beyond the grave on a pre-recorded VHS.

Credit: Miramax

Instead, Jennifer becomes the figure who knows how movies work and for that reason, she taps into a different clown role. "I saw her as an archetypal fool, refusing or unable to grasp reality and instead enter into it by animating it — spontaneously riding the chaos instead of waking up and going somewhere safe," Posey told TooFab earlier this year. Here, she is referring to the moment in which she leaps into bodyguard Steve Stone's arms as indicative of Jennifer's inability to get to safety. This moment also happens to be the funniest in the film. The way he holds his arm out so expectedly infers this is a regular occurrence. Leaning into her dramatic diva persona rather than considering she might actually die is part of Jennifer's appeal. That and her wild pants, which is only the start of her penchant for bold print attire.

It isn't death by early '00s fashion, but the floral bomber jacket paired with animal print that is making Jennifer a target whether she was one or not. As with her initial spiraling, the scene at the house when Ghostface lays his trap is pure Posey physical comedy. After she takes a punch to the face from the woman she is portraying on screen, the callback to Gale getting smacked by Sidney is a full-circle moment. "My. Lawyer. Liked. That," Jennifer tells Gale in a line reading that is Oscar-worthy. This is a woman who is always ready for her close-up, even with a bloody lip.

Credit: Miramax

Rather than fleeing the city, Jennifer dives further into her role as an investigative reporter. Instead of crumpling after the death of her bodyguard and mourning the loss of the man who literally carried her, she zeroes in on the method approach. Actors who resort to outlandish tactics to "get into character" can be rather tiresome — see Jared Leto while filming Suicide Squad — but Jennifer proves to be a useful co-worker.

"I know we've never met, and I know you never returned my phone call, but after getting into this project, I feel like I'm in your mind," is what Jennifer tells her when they first meet. Aiding Gale on the actual investigation is the role of a lifetime.

At first, her real-life counterpart is exhausted by this "me and my shadow" proposition, and Jennifer's attempt at explaining why she should help adds to Gale's desire to ditch the actress:

"Here's how I see it. I've got no house, no bodyguard, no movie and I'm being stalked. Because someone wants to kill me? No, because someone wants to kill you. So, now, starting now, I go where you go. So that if someone wants to kill me, I'll be with you, and since they really wanna kill you, they won't kill me, they'll kill you, make sense?"

It does make sense and also, Jennifer has a key card to get into the records archive, making her a valuable asset. When Gale tries to bribe the Carrie Fisher lookalike (who is actually played by Carrie Fisher) with a measly $50, Jennifer is on hand to offer up a snarky response and a more enticing offer. It started as a reluctant team-up, but this duo is successful in this endeavor.

Credit: Miramax

Smartly noting how much basements freak her out, the horror movie awareness appears to be kicking in as a form of self-preservation. Alas, it is not enough to save her from director Roman Bridger's nefarious tricks — including faking his own death. Getting stuck in the secret corridor with no way out, Jennifer bangs on the two-way mirror to alert Dewey. Even though he is no longer a cop, Dewey is still as useful as he was when he wore the badge. When Gale enters the room it becomes clear that something is going on behind the mirror — but Dewey is too late and Jennifer is stabbed before she can be rescued.

Only one Gale Weathers emerges alive, and as with other Scream favorites killed too soon (looking at you, Tatum), Jennifer made a mark on this franchise. This isn't to say that Jennifer has to stay dead. Whereas the garage door was definitely the end of Tatum, there is a bit more wiggle room for Jennifer. Sure, she is a bloody mess, but other Scream characters have survived worse — including Gale! It has been 20 years since Scream 3's lukewarm release, but nothing can take away from Parker Posey's impact and how this performance has stood the test of time. Even if she doesn't return, it wasn't all bad for Jennifer Jolie — at least she only had to endure Gale's first movie haircut.

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