Thursday, February 14, 2013

“Beautiful Creatures” – It’s good to see actors visibly having fun.

Sometimes, you have no idea what kind of food you’re hungry for. You might decide to eat a hamburger and think it’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted or you might go for the last piece of pie and end up nauseous. The point is that your mood can drastically affect your reaction to the food you eat. For me, the same can happen with movies. In either case, you don’t realize what you want until after you’ve finished; good or bad. This is how it was for me with Beautiful Creatures and I came out realizing the hamburger is just what I wanted.

Beautiful Creatures is the latest young adult novel/series to get the silver-screen treatment. Considering I had never heard of the books (let alone read them) until I saw previews, I had no expectations for this movie and didn’t have to worry about how closely it followed the book. Though, I will soon be reading the book since I liked the movie and want to know what was different, as well as what happens next (there are four books in this series, called The Caster Chronicles). Based on what I saw in the previews, I was expecting something similar to Twilight, but with witches instead of vampires and a role reversal for the romantic couple (the girl is the supernatural one here). I’m happy to say that while the love story is a main focus in Beautiful Creatures, it’s not THE STORY like it is in Twilight.

Beautiful Creatures will appeal to more guys than Twilight simply because the romance isn’t so thick and fantastical. In Beautiful Creatures, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) is the new student in the small southern town of Gatlin, where books are banned, devout Christians are everywhere, and Civil War reenactments have mandatory participation for everyone, children included. Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) is a local who reads banned books, questions the Christians’ narrow-mindedness, and is the only one not immediately picking on the new girl. In fact, he’s quite taken with her for the very reason that she’s an outsider and niece of the reclusive Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), descendant of the town’s founders and richest man in the area. At this point, the movie really does sound like Twilight, but it quickly divulges the real plot of the movie and that the love story is only a plot device. You can breathe that sigh of relief now.

As it turns out, female Casters (don’t call them witches; Lena says they don’t like it) become light or dark casters on their sixteenth birthday and have no choice in the matter. Additionally, Lena’s family accidentally cursed themselves during civil war times and all females in the family are doomed to become dark casters until the curse is broken. Macon is convinced that Lena will not become dark, but her mother, Sarafine (Emma Thompson) is bent on ensuring that she does. We’re not really sure why this is so important, other than Sarafine wanting more power by having her daughter on her side, but we’ll go along with it. After all, we’re talking about young adult literature, not Shakespeare.

Anyway, the movie moves back and forth between the family squabbles and the love story, maintaining a good mix throughout the film. It also has interesting secondary characters in Amma (Viola Davis) – Ethan’s family’s housekeeper who is some other kind of witch, and Ridley (Emmy Rossum) – Lena’s sister who is definitely not a good person. These two add depth to this world we’re experiencing, making it much more interesting than just a standard a love story.

Beyond the story, the acting is pretty good, aside from some really bad southern accents. Ehrenreich is charming and endearing, Englert is sympathetic, yet not too mopey (I’m talking to YOU, Kristen Stewart), and Irons, Thompson, and Rossum are all having as much fun as they possibly can, delivering characters that are both likeable and easy to despise (again, depending on your mood). Rossum stands out the most, as she has the smallest supporting role, but arguably the best scene – stepping out of a red BMW, wearing a skin tight, skin revealing dress, strutting her way toward Ethan and his friend. For you guys out there, you will have the same look on your face as the two boys do on theirs, as Rossum couldn’t be any more attractive than this.

When all was said and done, I found myself having enjoyed this film much more than I was expecting. While it does have some small flaws – most likely due to having to cut things from the book – it overcomes them with an interesting, multifaceted story, a strong cast delivering fun performances, and good pacing that will make you forget time passing at all. Mostly, I’m glad it wasn’t just a Twilight knockoff aimed at female tweens and women waiting for a vampire to ravish them.

Rating: Don’t ask for any money back and enjoy your burger.

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