Dear Beautiful Creatures,
When I first glimpsed you, I admit it was with a purely condescending attitude. You did win the February poll for worst film over the highly vilified comedy Identity Thief. The fact that some wanted to compare you to the horrendous “Twilight” franchise as an ‘heir apparent’ assured my disdain from the start. I even bought popcorn to give my hands and mouth something to do while you were, at best, endured.
So, when you introduce your leading man Ethan (played charmingly by newcomer Alden Ehrenreich) lamenting his life in small town South Carolina with a quirky internal dialogue, one eyebrow might have raised a little. Then, as the cute-but-pedantic blond girlfriend drives the small town religious dogma attitude home, new student Lena Duchannes is introduced to the proceedings with the requisite zealous religious hatred for those of the ‘dark arts.’ Obviously, to small town-hating Ethan, there is no way this dark and mysterious beauty can be avoided.
Of course, this isn’t all fate, as we quickly find out they at least once, knew each other in a past life. Who would have known, right? But aside from some of the all too familiar genre tropes for this sort of film, it’s easy to not mind so much, with the likable young protagonists, the succinct and to-the-point storyline, and the over the top and almost wacky supporting elders. I mean the night and day transformation of church lady Mrs. Lincoln into the possessed dark witch Sarafine is insanely over the top, a blast and pulled off brilliantly by an inspired Emma Thompson! It’s even hard not to like Jeremy Irons as town patron and Lena’s father Macon Ravenwood and Emmy Rossum as her dark witch catty older cousin, Ridley.
With some saying that this visual adaptation rises above even the actual book it is adapted from, I start to like it all the more. Obviously there is the teen angst, but part of that really rings true when Lena’s destiny really starts to catch up with her. In this case the question of whether she goes light witch or dark witch is the big issue at stake and her relationship with Ethan is threatening to take her down the dark path. When she breaks it off and makes him forget they ever had a relationship, there is a visceral ache leftover from watching her interact with him, and him having been forced to totally forget. When she finally comes of age and the outcome is decided in a new way no one envisioned, it is easy to see her choice in doing what she has to in order to survive, help him survive and still be true to her heart. Ultimately, it has me like her all the more for her maturity and her wishing him a path out of his forgetfulness.
Beautiful Creatures may not be the greatest young adult series or even onscreen adaptation of its kind, but it is entertaining and neither does it take itself too seriously, or poke too much fun at itself, but somehow seems to strike the right balance of both and be enjoyable at the same time.
I look forward to spending time with you again,