Beautiful Creatures Review
Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance
Not so much?
In the wake of the blockbuster franchise that was Twilight a new theme has emerged in film. The “supernatural” teen drama. The City of Bones and Stephenie Meyers’ The Host will both be coming to theaters in the next year. In the wake of this trend emerges Beautiful Creatures. I went into the theater skeptical I […]
In the wake of the blockbuster franchise that was Twilight a new theme has emerged in film. The “supernatural” teen drama. The City of Bones and Stephenie Meyers’ The Host will both be coming to theaters in the next year. In the wake of this trend emerges Beautiful Creatures. I went into the theater skeptical I was not a huge fan of the Twilight movies and the trailer for Beautiful Creatures seemed to be trying to rally the notorious Twi-hards. However, despite the inevitable melodrama I was pleasantly surprised by this film.
The story centers around Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), a young man with a lust for knowledge. He delights in reading, especially books banned by the conservative Christian society that inhabits the small town he lives in. He is unimpressed and tired of living in a small town where ignorance and laziness seems to be rewarded and cannot wait to get out and head to college. Enter Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) the newly arrived niece of the town’s mysterious millionaire rumored to be a worshiper of the devil. In reality Lena is descended from a family of witches, or as they are known in this universe casters. What follows is the pair’s inevitable meeting and romance.
What is most impressive and indeed interesting in this film however, is the way this fantastical story seems rooted in the real world. Ethan and Lena though they are drawn to each other immediately have an awkward one step forward two steps back kind of courtship. Neither of them are unrealistically perfect (*cough*Edward Cullen*cough*) they have baggage. For Ethan it’s a recently deceased mother and a shut-in father, for Lena the inability to fit in wherever she goes. Ethan is a bit of a geeky yet sincere school boy who the audience cannot help but identify with as he is thrown into a new world he never knew could truly exist. Likewise Lena’s powers do not make her flawless and unattainable but rather cautious and afraid of what she could become.
Alden Ehrenreich who portrays Ethan Wate does so with a simplicity that is refreshing. There is no smouldering intensity or ridiculous pinning. Ehrenreich’s acting choices are subtle and sincere which is a gift to the audience who are being thrown into dealings with a very dramatic and magical family. You believe at once that Ethan is a typical, if somewhat overread, young man who simply longs to leave the town in which he had the misfortune of being born. Similarly when he begins to fall in love with Lena it’s his headstrong independence that allows him to see past the unflattering stigma that follows her and not some all encompassing idea of destiny.
Lena Duchannes is played by Alice Englert a relative newcomer with just a handful of indie films to her name. The actress initially turned down the role, not wanting to enter into a franchise that seemed to be trying to ride the tide of Twilight’s popularity. However after reading the script she reconsidered and we are glad she did. Her portrayal of the young caster is interesting and realistic. Lena is moody and stubborn yet hopeful that something can save her from a family curse that plagues the days before her 16th birthday. The character is closed off when we first meet her and even after she begins her relationship with Ethan remains cautiously optimistic. Her performance very accurately encompasses what it means to be a teen without being overly melodramatic. It’s a fine line to walk and she does so effortlessly.
Other performances worth mentioning include Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Irons and my personal favorite Viola Davis. Emmy Rossum (Shameless) has an interesting turn as Ridley Duchannes, cousin of Lena and close friend before she turned dark on her 16th birthday. The character is obviously meant to mirror what Lena could become should she be claimed by the dark. Rossum’s performance is fun and flirty and it’s interesting to see her in the type of role she doesn’t often get to play.
Jeremy Irons is Lena’s reclusive uncle and turns in a less than amazing performance. Which for someone with his skill and range is somewhat disappointing. He does an okay job in the role but overall there’s nothing noteworthy here.
Viola Davis (The Help) on the other hand is interesting and intricate in her performance of Amma. The character herself serves as a common point between Ethan’s mortal world and the world of Casters which Lena inhabits. She is motherly to Ethan and a helpful hand to Lena. Her character could have been easily made campy or over the top but Davis portrays her with a sense of dignity and strength that really lends something to the feel of the film overall.
The actors’ performances aside there were some issues with the story. The action was slow to come, leaving the momentum of the film lagging in parts. The narrative was somewhat simple, which is fine since there was some world building to do and a relationship to form. However there were a couple superfluous scenes that could have been cut for both time and to better keep the audience’s attention. Despite this though there is the issue of the two teens dreaming of each other before they ever met that is neither fully explored or explained despite being mentioned on more than one occasion.
Overall the film is good, if you’re looking for an interesting romance with some supernatural aspects I would suggest this. It is by far better than Twilight. The characters stand on their own and the attraction between them seems based on mutual respect and interest in each other. Also though it is a romance the love story does not overpower the coming of age storyline of Lena who faces the chance of being claimed by dark forces on the day of her 16th birthday.
There are some cringe worthy moments though. Most notably Ethan’s monologue in the beginning of the film in which his accent seems about five times thicker than it does in the rest of the movie and a pair of overly obnoxious “popular” girls who have it out for Lena.
Nevertheless the film is worth a see, I would suggest possibly waiting to rent it on DVD or catch it on Netflix once it’s released. Though it’s a good film it may not be worth $10 at the cinema if supernatural romance in particular is not your thing.