By Laurie Coker
There is no limit on teen romance novels and films these days. I used to eat up books about teen love in my youth, but I have no recollection of such stories including vampires, zombies, and witches. The market for such dribble must be huge, because authors and filmmakers are pumping out a plethora of human/creature love stories. Most recently, on the heels of the wonderful Warm Bodies and not to long after the final Twilight film, director Richard LaGravenese and screenwriter Kami Garcia, whose young adult novel is adapted for screen by Richard Lagravenese’s, bring us Beautiful Creatures a tale of tormented love between a mere mortal boy and a mystifying witch on the cusp of her eighteenth birthday.
Even at the beginning of his junior year, Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) wants nothing more than to get away from the small town he feels trapped in, until that is, Lena (Alice Englert) shows up and turns his world and his heart on fire – almost literally. Lena has come home to live with her uncle (Jeremy Irons), who looks to protect his niece from her evil mother and cousin (Emmy Rossum) and keep her close as she comes of age witch style, where on her eighteenth birthday, she will be chosen to live out her “life” on either the dark (bad) or the light (good) side. The star-crossed lovers meet and almost instantly fall in love and then take on the snobs at school, the religious extremists in town and Lena’s dark-side family members.
Eherenreich, as I hear it, wasn’t first choice to play Ethan and I can’t remember seeing him in anything else. On one note, I am not sure, because I have never heard him speak, whether or not he put on a thick as mud, country-fried, North Carolina accent for the role or not, but it grated on me like ice scraping on teeth. I could barely focus when he spoke. Still, as an actor he did okay as is white skinned, brooding Englert. The big name stars in the film including Irons and the irrepressible Emma Thompson shine bright and make the lesser actors appear even more awkward. Rossum, too, pleases, but Englert and Ehrenreich just don’t pack the acting strength in the shadow of the others. Thompson provides the film’s more entertaining characters -one a stuffy church lady, the other, by way of possession, a sinister witch.
Garcia’s story is all too well known, simple and not at all fresh – boy meets girl, family doesn’t want boy near girl (complete with a Romeo and Juliet style balcony scene) and love conquers all even crazy spells and a family feud. Thankfully, Lena and Ethan’s romance doesn’t follow the same doomed path as Shakespeare’s young lovers. Certainly, we have a supernatural element in Beautiful Creatures, but all the flashy witchcraft, spinning sets and wild visuals can’t save this film from being, simply put, asinine and over all uneventful.
I fear the PG-13 rated Beautiful Creatures lacks the strength or quality to please even fans of the novel. I know I am not the target audience, but still, I hoped for more. I can’t blame the junior cast (although I think it could have done better), nor the veteran actors (because they are great), but I do blame LaGravenese for not offering more thrill to his telling. I am placing a D+/C- in my grade book. I wish I could give higher, especially to Thompson, but I cannot.