Combining two of the most sought after premises in a movie can create catnip for a specific audience demographic. Beautiful Creatures, the film adaptation of the best selling YA novel of the same name, is one such product. It has the forbidden romance between teenagers, due to the girl being a witch and the boy a mere mortal, as well as the sorcery and witchcraft, with dangerous consequences lurking around every plot twist. The movie may be a quick jaunt of a story, without much build-up or introspection into character, but it holds a certain kitschy entertaining quality that is sure to have the female teenagers swooning--especially in a year without Bella and Edward to satiate their needs. Beautiful Creatures has been adapted quick and dirty as it is quite obvious there is a great deal more to the story than we are being shown, or given an opportunity to infer. Regardless, it does not cease to entertain even the most hardened critic of easily forgettable YA-movie trash.
The basic plot of Beautiful Creatures is what makes it easy to fall along with while watching. There is something to be said about simplicity when it comes to romantic dramas laced with the supernatural. Lena (Alice Englert) is the new girl in school, the niece of the town recluse Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), who just happens to be a male castor, aka warlock, witch, or whatever cliche name you wish to give his sort. Her arrival in the smallest of towns, Gatlin, has caused quite a raucous, and the two popular high school girls do not waste any time hiding their distaste of her. But Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) feels an instant connection to Lena, and he is convinced she is the girl he has been dreaming about for months. Their romance occurs quickly in order to leave more time for the mischief of witchcraft and ancient curses to be focused upon in the story. It is a thankful choice on behalf of screenwriter/director Richard LaGravenese because too much teenage melodrama can make for an even greater amount of eye rolling for a viewer. The romance is important, though. The swiftness in establishing their strong emotions does not help the story as time is not given enough for the viewer to build a connection with them. Then again, this is a young adult geared movie and deep emotions can easily be discarded for a healthy amount of verbose kissing and sarcastic banter mingled with small town boy charm--something Ehrenreich's Ethan displays perfectly and with abundance.
The real draw of Beautiful Creatures comes in the form of the ancient curse, the witchcraft, and the will she or will she not go "dark" on her 16th birthday. To tell would be to spoil the ending, even if the ending actually spoils itself--a gripe one may or may not have when the credits roll considering a neat little tidy scene thrown in to please those who may have been angered minutes before. Lena will be claimed on her 16th birthday for either the light or the dark. Translation: she will be a good castor or a bad castor, like her mother Seraphine (Emma Thompson) and cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum). By the looks of Ridley and Seraphine the dark castors do seem to have a great deal more fun, but that is always the case. Or in this case it may just be Emmy Rossum and Emma Thompson hamming up their roles merely for fun because to take it all too seriously would be a grave mistake. Also, the good are always plagued with the tedious conscience. Being bad provides a great excuse to hurt anyone and everyone.
Besides the simple "good vs. evil," "light vs. dark" predicament there is a history of Lena's family and the curse placed upon the girls for generations that is touched upon ever so briefly. Readers of the novel will be disappointed in the lack of flashbacks telling the origin story, while those new to this story may feel cheated as well because it is quickly displayed as more of a way to fill in a minor gap in the plot than to actually make a difference in Lena's life's outcome. Beautiful Creatures is fluff and fodder, its not trying to be anything more. Then again, establishing a stronger origin story would have done the movie good if sequels are planned--there are more books in the series that follow Ethan and Lena's journey. It would also have been nice to not introduce characters, or seemingly important side story's and then neglecting to elaborate on them. Ethan has a father who rarely leaves his study since his mother's death but we never see him, nor do we hear much about what he is doing in there. Ethan solely exists in Lena's world and with her magic wielding relatives. He has quite simply been subjected to playing a simpleton of a boy who reads anti-establishment novels with the hope of getting out of this small town one day. But something tells us he never will, at least not in LaGravenese's screenplay. It only makes matters worse for him when he spends most of the third act twiddling his thumbs while Lena reads an ancient book of spells.
All in all Beautfiul Creatures fulfills the basic needs for the intended viewer. It provides romance, danger, and a decent enough supernatural mystery. Lena and Ethan play well on screen together, and easily fit the properties of their two characters: the tormented girl and love-sick puppy mortal boyfriend. You like them, you root for them as much as allowable, and while you may forget them very quickly once their story is complete you will undoubtedly get put under their spell while they have your attention. Beautiful Creatures could have been a stronger film, and a much better adaptation of the novel, but a spell has been cast and it surely will charm the demographic it is aiming for opening weekend.
Being that Beautiful Creatures is a love story it is imperative to have a substantial amount of chemistry between the two leads, Alice Englert as Lena and Alden Ehrenreich as Ethan. They do possess a certain charming quality, for the most part. But knowing they are merely 15 and 16, respectively, does add a level of uncomfortableness when the "sucking face" occurs wildly. Sweet and soft kisses do not exist in Beautiful Creatures. Director/screenwriter Richard LaGravenese must have decided that an over-the-top approach to the PG love scenes was needed; he has Lena and Ethan practically attacking one another when they embrace for a kiss. Its far from suitable for two characters their age and this is not a prudish observation. Anyone will surely feel the exaggerated antics of Ethan and Lena need not have been presented as such, as well as Ridley's roll on a swamp floating barge with heavily underused best friend Link (Thomas Mann). The actors may perform well with one another and make for a likable pair of cursed lovers but the loss of innocence, or lack of, takes away a great deal from the romantic possibilities in the story. You yearn to see a more formal and awkward blossoming of love between Ethan and Lena--not a display of overblown teenage hormones.
Romance, Fantasy, Drama
February 14, 2013