Beautiful Creatures – 2013

Written and Directed by Richard LaGravenese
Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum, Thomas Mann, Emma Thompson
Based on the book by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

First things first.  I hate the accent applied by Ehrenreich.  Normally bad accents don’t serve as much of a distraction, but this one sure does.  The actor is from Los Angeles, and not Gatlin, South Carolina.  Near as I can tell, his accent is from the belief that if you say anything fast enough, people will assume you know what you are doing.  The aggravation normally lessens as time goes on.  In this case, one could only imagine why the person wasn’t told to bag it and go with what got him the part.

Second is the story.  It’s a sped up version of Twilight.  I am sure it ran a little slower on the printed page, but it feels like we hit the end right about the time we find out that Lena (Englert) is a witch.  This is not just because it is predictable, we have several flash forwards, disguised as flashbacks to tell us what is bound to happen.  And then it just happens.

The South is reduced to a religious, ignorant and bigoted character with no room for nuance or differences.  The narrative even narrows the type of person down to ‘either too dumb to leave or too stuck to get away.’  There is another character, with panache and color.  They are, of course, witches and warlocks.  They have elegant clothes, nice decoration and a bigger vocabulary.

Even witches are divided into good and bad.  Who and why they split is not as relevant.  The important thing is that we know Lena is teetering on the precipice of good and bad and seemingly has to make a choice.  Is there a middle ground?  Not really.

As for acting talent, the script really does not need much.  Having Irons and Thompson present adds very little.  They are capable of great work, of course, but they can arrive for the paycheck as well as anyone.  They leave no real impression to the viewer who hasn’t seen them in something better.  Viola Davis does have some consistently effective moments in a pivotal role.  Her eyes are quite powerful, and they make up for a lot that isn’t present with the rest of the story.

As half of the featured couple, Englert is actually quite good in one of her first major roles.  She carries the relationship of Lena and Ethan, with Ehrenreich coming across as not much more than a horny rube who likes to cut covers off box and put them on a map.  There is a reason he does this, but it’s not all that poignant as it is goofy.

There is nothing all that bad about Beautiful Creatures.  The story is something one would expect from the teen genre from which it derives.  Whereas Twilight put its emphasis on hot romance, this film takes the story and makes it palatable for those who don’t want their kids to see a man’s bare chest before he turns into a Werewolf.  There is nothing here that is too offensive, but neither can we expect it to win any awards.  It’s from the familiar place of romance.  To quote Tracy Ullman: “They don’t know about us and they’ve never heard of love.”

But we have heard of this before.  Quite a few times.

(*** out of *****)


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