Movie review: 'Beautiful Creatures' does not have the same 'Twilight' appeal
February 14, 2013 3:00 PM
Alden Ehrenreich portrays a teen mortal falling for a "caster" or a witch, played by Alice Englert, in the supernatural love story "Beautiful Creatures," opening in theaters today.
By Barbara Vancheri Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Three little words I never thought I would write: "I miss 'Twilight.' " Or what it excelled at, in light of the new movie "Beautiful Creatures."
Both deal with supernatural forbidden romances between an otherworldly creature -- a vampire or, here, a "caster" or witch -- and a mortal. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson had real chemistry, and the adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's first novel was faithful but serviceable and conveyed deeply felt emotions.
"Beautiful Creatures" combines or omits some characters and essential details (including teen telepathic communication), which is not a fatal flaw, but the resulting love story seems flat and doesn't leave the audience craving more. The movie, after all, is based on the first novel in a series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl and seems positioned to launch a franchise.
Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson.
PG-13 for violence, scary images and some sexual material.
It's set in Gatlin, S.C., a small conservative Southern town populated by "the stupid and the stuck," as the never-seen widowed father of teenager Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) has said.
Everything changes with the arrival of Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), the 15-year-old niece of Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), the town's most famous recluse. He's a mysterious and haughty figure whose family founded the town and still owns much of the land.
Lena is the girl of Ethan's dreams, literally, because he dreamed about her nightly before she turned up at his high school. But she's immediately ostracized by the cool clique -- mean girls say Lena is from a family of "satanists" and launch into prayer in the classroom -- who also freeze out Ethan when he befriends the newcomer.
Lena eventually tells Ethan that she and her family have powers. She's a "caster," and when she turns 16, she will be "claimed" by either light or dark forces, and she fears it will be the latter.
If that wasn't drama enough, the mother of Ethan's best friend is leading the charge to expel Lena, the young couple have a mysterious tie to the Civil War, and their very relationship is forbidden in a world that also counts hidden seers, sirens, an incubus and others with supernatural powers.
In addition to its young leads and Mr. Irons, "Beautiful Creatures" stars Viola Davis as Amma, a woman who looks after Ethan and works as a librarian, and Emma Thompson, also doing double duty, including as the mother of Ethan's best friend, Link (Thomas Mann).
Richard LaGravenese, an Oscar nominee for his original screenplay "The Fisher King," directs the screenplay he wrote based on the 2009 novel. He fills smaller roles with interesting actors such as Emmy Rossum as one of Lena's cousins, Margo Martindale as an aunt and Eileen Atkins as her grandmother.
The movie's themes about breaking away from the pack, claiming who you are (no matter your family history), being a caster or an outcast, making sacrifices for the ones you love and itching to explore the world at large are laudatory, but the story handles them somewhat clumsily.
And while interesting in their own ways, Mr. Ehrenreich and Ms. Englert don't seem like a couple destined to be together. If you cannot buy them together, the whole movie falls apart.
The title, by the way, comes courtesy of Macon who says in the text: "Mortals, I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures."
Even if you don't always make beautiful music or movies.