Directed by: Richard LaGravenese
Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Emmy Rossum
Running Time: 2 hrs 4 mins
Release Date: February 14, 2013
PLOT: A young man in South Carolina (Ehrenreich) falls for a new classmate (Englert) who has superpowers.
WHO’S IT FOR? The teen demographic is definitely the target of this film, as Beautiful Creatures features typical high school drama, and even extended make-out sessions. Driven by honest performances, this movie is for the supernatural young adult crowd who are at least somewhat familiar with Twilight, etc.
The most effective spell cast by Beautiful Creatures is indeed its two leading cast members, who are newcomers to the game of Hollywood moviemaking. Previously, Ehrenreich has only been scene in less mainstream fare like Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro, and Englert recently starred opposite Elle Fanning in Ginger & Rosa. For this movie’s main audience, they will be unknowns, and the film’s courageous casting uses this as an advantage; watching the two talented leads is a discovery in itself, and lures viewers into sticking around to see what story is to be told with these genuine characters. The freshness that these new faces bring to the previously traveled territory of young adult entertainment even provides a boost of authenticity to this story of two young people in supernatural love, with the chemistry between the two stronger than arguably anything in Twilight or even Warm Bodies. With believable accents in tact, these two provide a genuine nature to a movie that could easily be lost entirely to its mysticism.
Aside from the two romantic actors who share the same initials, Beautiful Creatures is working with supporting actors of who have reasonably heavy duty dramatic potential. Unfortunately, they best provide images of stalwart adults, as seen with the likes of Jeremy Irons’ prickly uncle, or Viola Davis’ wise Amma, who has answers to many of Ethan’s questions, but also has a bunch of crazy too.
Coming in hot with flair and grand self-amusement, Emma Thompson provides the film’s most intriguing supporting performance, her take on a narrow-minded conservative in a town such as Gatlin even bordering on hilarious during the movie’s lighter moments. Her performance provides the offbeat color a movie proudly about outcasts such as Beautiful Creatures needs.
What this film doesn’t need is a performance like Emmy Rossum’s, who tries to stink up the movie with her femme fatale scent, but comes with endlessly corny potential most easily compared to Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy in Joel Schumacher’s opus to the death of comic book movies, Batman and Robin. Dressed in devious dark clothes, Rossum provides a directionless depiction of tackiness, causing viewers to fear most of all that casters become lamewads if they choose to go dark.
While Beautiful Creatures might focus much of its time on its supernatural features, such components are not advantageous to the rest of the film. The whole business of casters (they don’t prefer to be called witches) and the many ranks, along with Lena’s family history, is not particularly interesting in the big picture, and is only thoughtful when one considers what it means about the definition of being “normal,” as opposed to everything on the surface level itself.
While the idea of casters and whatnot might be the angle that the film hopes gives Beautiful Creatures an advantage to its similar ilk, it’s not. In fact, it makes the film overall slower, weighing the audience down with a fancy way of discussing womanhood, which is essentially the steps that Lena is set to go through as she chooses what type of person she wants to be for the rest of her life. The concept of a caster provides nothing to the story but goofy gothic moments and special effects, such as when a dinner table spins violently during a family dispute, or when one of the characters is able to take the form of someone else. The story of Beautiful Creatures becomes an example of what people can easily confuse for spectacle, as these special effects don’t offer much that is special themselves.
A distinct bit of charm for Beautiful Creatures instead comes with its placement in the south, which provides an effectively unique stamp on the movie’s atmosphere. This isn’t just any small town, this is a small town in South Carolina, where the citizens have images to uphold for one another, especially as gossiping is one of the land’s oldest traditions. Chunks of Beautiful Creatures allow for amusing insights into the psychological structure of the location; it’s not only funny to see what uptight parents say about the new people, but their children. For some viewers, Beautiful Creatures won’t simply be potentially relatable for its story of young love, but also for its presentation of tight knit communities.
Beautiful Creatures is basically two films: the story of two average-looking teens falling in love while embracing the truth that they are not normal, and then the lame duck tale of witchcraft, or excuse me, castercraft, or whatever. The film features the work of two new promising stars, who make this muddy movie more watchable than it probably should be. Ehrenreich and Englert, immediately in need of being placed in a movie like The Perks of Being A Wallflower, prove to their audience that romance does not require storytelling witchcraft in order to achieve images of true love.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10