DIRECTOR: Richard LaGravenese
CAST: Alice Englert, Alden Ehrenreich, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis
CLASSIFICATION: 13 VP
RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes
Based on a best-selling novel of the same name, this young adult novel and film owes its existence to the Twilight madness.
There are better edited books out there, but urban fantasy is the money spinner at the moment, so now we get spellcasters, spinning rooms and hidden libraries.
Hollywood does not want scripts about real life right now, they want vampires, witches, ghouls and ghastliness, because that’s ostensibly where the bean counters think the money lies.
The film initially uses the narrative convention of 17-year-old Ethan Wate (Ehrenreich) telling the story from his point of view, but that idea peters out halfway through for some unknown reason.
Ethan has been dreaming about a girl who turns out to be real and a witch too boot.
Lena (Englert) moves to the fictional town of Gatlin, South Carolina, where nothing much happens.
She is the niece of the local Boo Radley character, whose family pretty much owns the town.
Jeremy Irons is uncle Macon Melchizedek Ravenwood and with a name like that, you just know he’s going to stalk around the house with a cane in his hand, dripping Southern charm and bitchiness in equal measure.
Young Ethan is fascinated by Lena and finds out she will be claimed for either the Light or the Dark on her 16th birthday and the film is basically a precis of how she finds out more about witchcraft while he watches her.
Throw in high school life of preppy, bitchy girls and adults who want to keep the teens apart and it could be any “teenager searching for identity” film, albeit with some magic thrown in.
The town has dark secrets, and some are quite funny and fascinating, but that actually takes a back seat to the relationship between the star-crossed lovers.
The two leads are played by fresh-faced adults who are well-matched, but they’re not kids anymore, so she just comes across as a whiny young woman and he’s leaning towards creepy.
Still, the film is about searching for your identity as a teenager and wondering whether you’re pre-destined to be a certain way or whether you make your own way.
Beautiful Creatures is well named because everyone looks really good, especially the spellcasters.
They swan around in gorgeous costumes and by the end of the film everyone is dressed up at a Civil War battle recreation, so it’s just flounces and masses and masses of tulle everywhere.
Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons have great fun hamming it up as the bad guys.
Or rather, she’s bad, he’s just pretending. Apparently. Either way, again the costumes help and she even talks about the clothing.
The cinematography is broody with lots of portentous clouds and the dialogue is fresh, probably courtesy of director/screenwriter Richard LaGravenese, who was nominated for an Oscar for writing the script of The Fisher King and has successfully adapted several other books to film.
The authors of the original book have been picked up to write at least three more sequels, which should see the characters grow up a bit, so expect more films.
At least it’s not sparkly vampires.
If you liked Twilight, you will like this.