I will follow you into the dark – Beautiful Creatures review

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By Jess Lomas
February 19, 2013

Witchcraft and teenage romance meet in South Carolina as Beautiful Creatures attempts to dodge Twilight comparisons and believable southern accents. Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) is a witch – or rather, a ‘caster’ – who returns to her home town of Gatlin, where her supernatural family has been handily segregated into “light” and “dark” sides. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday – whereby she’ll be claimed by either the good or the bad – Lena meets Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), the star-crossed soul-mate with whom she falls passionately in love with. Of course.

Uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons) tries to keep Lena light, but her devious cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum) steps in to create temptation. Meanwhile, her thought-to-be-dead mother Sarafine returns by embodying the local bible-basher Mrs. Lincoln (Emma Thompson), and also attempts to manipulate Lena to join her in the dark. As Ethan learns about Lena’s secrets, they uncover some truths about their families that will challenge their relationship and their very lives. Luckily, they have a Keeper by the name of Amma (Viola Davis) on their side.

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Writer/director Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love You) has struggled to compress Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s 576-page young adult novel into a two-hour feature whilst maintaining the action needed to keep the story interesting. There’s a lot for the audience to learn – about the characters and about Lena’s craft – and it’s not always handled tactfully. It doesn’t help that the supernatural element of this film pales in comparison to the romance. The CGI used is often laughably cheap and distracting; a poor man’s Tim Burton dreamscape.

That said, the central relationship is well-handled and expertly carried by Ehrenreich as the goofy heartthrob Ethan, who reads banned books in hipster glasses. The bordering-on-obsessive teenage love angle has been well criticised throughout the success of the Twilight franchise, and Beautiful Creatures does little to break this paranormal romance stereotype and depict a realistic teen courtship. However, nothing here is aiming for realism. Despite the picture’s limited appeal, the inability of some actors (namely Irons) to master their Southern accents, the lazy cliché of bitchy Christians, and the hint of misogyny lingering over Lena’s sixteenth birthday doomsday, Beautiful Creatures is an entertaining and surprisingly humorous flick. It won’t be the next big franchise, but its shortcomings are easily forgiven thanks to the handful of clever performances.

3/5

Beautiful Creatures arrives in Australian cinemas February 21, 2013.

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