Another punt a Twilight-style abstinence fantasy with this star-spangled (and highly derivative) slice of southern Gothic.
There is no getting away from the elephant in the room – the plot of Richard LaGravenese’s adaptation of the Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's New York Times best-seller, 'Beautiful Creatures', sounds awfully familiar.
A pair of teens, Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) and Lena (Alice Englert), loaded with feelings of alienation and dejection, find solace in each other’s arms. The twist is that one has supernatural powers (she’s a witch) and the other is human – a tremendously distilled football playing sophomore Ginsberg with a thick Southern drawl.
Added to the foaming soup of conflicting emotions is the impending threat of whether Lena will choose the lightside or the darkside on her sixteenth birthday – a decision that is pressed with aid of a convenient built-in timer tattoo on her hand.
The model of masking sexual awakening with magical powers has been done to death, first in Buffy and then later in the much grander Twilight. This time around LaGravenese takes the genre and, rather than becoming bogged down in melodrama, injects it with a bit more zest and fun.
It makes good use of the atypical metaphors of sexual awakening (powers that feel too big to control/animal urges/will having sex with this boy screw me up for life?) plumped up with grand sweeping scenes of literal explosive magic and action. All the while, it talks about sex without ever mentioning it. The difference here is that Lena, rather than get her prom date at sweet sixteen, has to decide whether to become a mass-murdering siren or a homeopathic witch who bakes cookies and gets the guy.
Jeremy Irons dons a series of velvet jackets, hamming up his Carolina twang as Lena’s uncle Ravenwood, while Emma Thompson goes at it with gusto as the deranged Sarafine, a witch who lusts after power like Lady Macbeth on steroids. Both names obviously add some thesp gravitas to the film, but they also lighten things up, saving it from being bland Dawson’s Creek meets Harry Potter.
The world created in the film is a deep southern American Gothic mashed up with what look like designs from Lady Gaga’s personal stylist. Sometimes this is effective, such as the Tardis-like transformation of Ravenwood’s colonial mansion to something that internally resembles a New York loft conversion.
However, the FX sometimes jar, particularly in a scene involving a giant spinning table surrounded by a cast that resembles the Addams family on acid and the brief appearance of Emmy Rossum as a shades-wearing Satanist.
While far from original, with wobbly effects and the occasional production design problem, Beautiful Creatures still succeeds in its playful approach, providing a light, enjoyable teen-gothic fiction that never falls into the trap of taking itself too seriously.
Looked like more of the same rehashed teen-goth fiction copying Twilight’s success, with the bonus of a sassy Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons’ gravel-toned utterances.
Aware of the pitfalls of the genre and not taking itself too seriously, we get the pangs of teenage heartache with the odd entertaining CGI spectacle to keep us entertained.
Its flash in the pan stuff but a good start for two young Hollywood actors who, while far from R-Patz and K-Stew, prove that teen-goth fiction doesn’t have to be all talking wolves and vampire babies.