Review: Beautiful Creatures – Every ‘witch’ way but loose
A few months back, when I saw the cinematic soulsucker that is The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, I thought my tolerance for teenage supernatural melodrama had been completely bled dry. Then lo and behold the film Warm Bodies comes out and suddenly proves that not all teen themed stories with a macabre twist need be so terrible. And now Beautiful Creatures also proves that the young-adult film ground that The Twilight Saga defiled is not forever tarnished.
I was thoroughly surprised by how much I liked Beautiful Creatures, a story set in the fictional small town of Gatlin, South Carolina, where high school junior Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) becomes infatuated with a mysterious new girl, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), who he has been dreaming about long before he actually meets her.
Lena and her family are “casters” (the politically correct term for witches) and on her sixteenth birthday her true nature will be revealed and she will become a full-fledged follower of either the light or dark side of witchcraft. Lena’s Uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons) is trying to protect her from the dark side, but the girl’s long forsaken mother, Sarafine (Emma Thompson), and her seductive cousin, Ridley (Emmy Rossum), are trying to influence her to the side of evil.
Amidst the battle for Lena’s loyalty she and Ethan fall in love and discover they have a past life connection dating back to the Civil War. As she learns more about her past and determines how to confront her future, she realizes that the only way to remain in the light is to sacrifice her love for her mortal boyfriend.
The supernatural schmaltz of the Beautiful Creatures story is fairly run-of-the-mill, but what holds this movie together and sets it apart is the enchanting wit that the film exudes; especially in the character of Ethan, a young man eager to break the coils of his little community and explore the world he has only experienced through his collection of banned books. The movie has a very literary tint and a poetic tone that sets its intelligence level miles above the Twilight standard.
Alden Ehrenreich’s portrayal of Ethan in this film is a breakout performance and I have no doubt this young actor is going to be a huge star. Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson also appear to be having a lot of fun in their roles as uppity southern aristocrats, and Thompson in particular is amazing while switching between an ultra-conservative mother and a sultry sorceress.
Beautiful Creatures is based on the young adult novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, but it was written for the screen and directed by Richard LaGravenese. This film certainly showcases LaGravenese’s writing talents, especially for great dialogue, and his ability to adapt a novel to the big screen; although from a directorial standpoint there are a few logic gaps in the story that might have been handled a little more smoothly.
I loved this movie’s southern charm and gothic locale, where nearly every sentence is humorously prefaced with, “My Momma says…” If Beautiful Creatures does well at the box office I’m sure we’ll see its characters in a sequel as there are already four novels in the book series, and after this very fine first film effort I’d be happy to visit Gatlin, South Carolina at the movies again. GRADE: 7/10