Title: Beautiful Creatures
So, We're Doing Witches Now? That's an unfortunate choice of words.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two-and-a-half ruby slippers out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Teenage
witch "caster" not named Sabrina approaches milestone birthday, chooses inopportune time to fall in love with mortal redneck.
Tagline: "Dark secrets will come to light."
Better Tagline: "Spells like teen spirit."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: You say it's your birthday? Well, it's Lena Duchannes's (Alice Englert) (16th) birthday too. Almost. However, rather than roller skating or ritual labia piercing or whatever teenagers are into these days, Lena will undergo something called "the Claiming," in which she will be forever aligned with either the forces of Light or Dark. And if that wasn't enough, local boy Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) is smitten with her and yammering about the two of them ditching their dead end town of Gatlin, SC.
"Critical" Analysis: I think "supernatural romances" are pretty sleazy. Not for the subject matter, but because they're the gateway for young people -- girls, primarily -- to become hooked on romance novels. The romance industry (Big Bodice Ripper?) knows their material is too dull to grab most adolescents, so they spice things up with fantasy trappings. Then, when the teens in question have matured and presumably outgrown sparkly vampires or witches with glittery eyes, the Judith McNaughts and Nora Roberts of the world are there to snap them up.
Or maybe I've been watching too many X-Files reruns. The point is, this particular sub-genre is often only distinguished from its "adult" counterparts by the inclusion of fangs or lycanthropy.
They tend to have similar incidences of shirtlessness, however.
So Beautiful Creatures already has that strike going against it, but there's actually a surprising amount of humor amid Lena and Ethan's searing gazes and the gloomy Southern gothic backdrop. Ehrenreich's southern accent is roughly as authentic as James Van Der Beek's in Varsity Blues (amusingly, he doesn't want this life either), but he's convincing and refreshingly humorous as the well-read small town boy who just wants access to a decent library and -- I'm guessing -- girls with a certain "zest for living." Englert, on the other hand, never quite distinguishes herself.
But oh, the drama. I don't know if director Richard LaGravenese (Freedom Writers, P.S., I Love You) was paying much attention during filming or actively goaded his actors on, but there's some Joey Chestnut levels of scenery chewing here. Jeremy Irons (as Lena's uncle Macon) and Emmy Rossum (cousin Ridley) are especially over-the-top. Emma Thompson is also obviously enjoying herself as Lena's mother Sarafine (disguised as a local housewife), and I'm probably being hypocritical in saying her performance was a high point for me. But then, I'd enjoy listening to her even if she was reading me my list of offenses against the Crown while the Royal Buggerer oiled up his Punishment Phallus.
Perhaps the worst off is Viola Davis, who is saddled as Amma, the Royal Expositioner, i.e. seer/occult librarian/Wate family housekeeper. That's three "magical Negro" roles in one. Disappointing, after watching her kill it in Doubt and The Help.
So while there are a few welcome twists on the old formula, Beautiful Creatures is still formulaic. About the most welcome aspect of the film was the casting of the two leads, who were at least unknown enough to be a little refreshing. All the same, about the only thing lasting impact the movie's likely to have will be a mild spike in Google searches for "Charles Bukowski."
Beautiful Creatures is in theaters today. I'd stay home and watch The Craft on cable instead.
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