Beautiful Creatures (2013) Review

This is a good movie. It’s shy of brilliance only in that it’s confined to one film and not several–and it is a story that needs several.

It is a teen, supernatural romance, featuring star-crossed lovers. And unfortunately, that’s where people draw the line because they assume it’s banking off of Twilight. However director and screenplay adapter, Richard LaGravenese, had a genuine vision when making this film and it provides the paranormal romance genre with credibility. If anything, this is the other side of that coin, a movie with actual heart and merits.

We follow the story of Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), who feels trapped in his one-horse town, Gatlin. He tells us that people are too stuck to move and his town houses the same families for over 10 generations. He confesses that they don’t even have a Starbucks and movies at their local theater are already on DVD everywhere else.

Unlike the rest of Gatlin’s locals however, Ethan is determined to leave. He reads books as a means of escape and narrates how his mother took him to the library and said, “This is my church.” The man he finds most in common with is Billy Pilgrim of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. He thinks about becoming unstuck in time and pities anyone who doesn’t go insane.

Enter Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert).

A new girl moves to town and is subject to gossip among all the townsfolk. All except Ethan, who refuses to acknowledge such shallow remarks.

He catches her reading Charles Bukowski’s, Sometimes you get so Alone, it just makes sense and wants to discuss books. Lena sees this as a come-on and does not oblige.

In driving home however, Ethan sees her at the side of the road–her car off to the side. In the pouring rain, Ethan offers to drive her home, but she refuses, finding his come-ons tiresome. Ethan references the rain as the Titanic–as a means to admit that he is in a star-crossed lovers’ movie–and asks the question we were all thinking when first viewing, “I never understood why Rose let go? I mean why didn’t she and Jack just switch places every 10 minutes?”

At this, Lena relents and agrees to be driven home, though she will not sit in the passenger seat, she sits in the back. Lena continues to insult Ethan, but his cheerfulness is unmarred and he believes that he will convince her that he’s not some dumb jock–as she puts it.

In an organic conversation, Lena mentions the death of her father, to which Ethan mentions–almost in passing–with an awkward smile that his mother died in a car accident. With some very coy acting, he spreads his smile wider and offsets his nervousness with a comedic line, “Gee, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned that, haha, what a dead-end conversation that was. Let’s move on.”

This does several things:
1. Is funny.
2. Evidences his smile as a result of nervousness instead of doing what most young actors do which is stutter and get the jitters.
3. Is more reflective of the town since everyone knows everyone. This is the first time, Ethan announces this to someone who doesn’t know that information already. It’s this wonder that he captures and is the fuel for why he’s immediately attracted to her.

For all her qualities, the actress Englert, is not a stunning, drop-dead gorgeous beauty. This is not to say she’s ugly, but in the wrong hands, she would be played by Megan Fox. I say this because her quaintness is what provides the romance with real credibility. He’s not simply attracted to her, he’s actually enticed by her foreignness. She is a vessel of escape, a departure from the known; she is a beacon of hope for Ethan and that is the initial attraction–not her looks.

This real romance is made all the more apparent since Ethan’s previous girlfriend is the archetypal, gorgeous blonde, and he has absolutely no interest in her.

This is what works about the film. The characters are atypical, southern folk living in a cliched town. This is an analogy for the film. The cliched town is the paranormal, teen romance genre, but it’s the characters, with a very real chemistry, that separate it from the herd.

If you have an interest in paranormal, teen romance as a credible genre, then you should see this film. It’s incredibly romantic and it’s not the same story you’ve seen a million times already. It is not corny or sappy, or eye-rolling, but funny, real, and bold.

A movie that breaks conventions like the boy sneaking out the window by having Ethan struggle immensely to climb down a root.

A movie that has some stunning new acting talents that showcases them entirely. Try acting the following seen out:

Now that’s refreshing talent.

As I’ve said however, I do feel that there is one drawback to this film and that’s that it deserves to be split into multiple movies. There are some scenes that go way over my head since I didn’t know the source material and even after it’s explained I’m a bit confused.

However, I mainly state this due to the pacing. It is obvious when one Act ends and another begins. You can see the three Acts and they could very well have been split into three films.

On the one hand, maybe it was the director’s choice to avoid the trilogy/franchise syndrome, but when you have such captivating characters and an abundance of mythos, it’s worth giving the story the time it deserves.

If you want to see a good, credible romance, I highly recommend this film.

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Note: This release date is actually false, since it came out on 2.13.13, subversively breaking romantic conventions even then.

PS. When Lena introduces Ethan to Bukowski, he delivers one of the greatest lines of all time, “This man is a god!”

Based on the Caster Chronicles Series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures (2013)
Directed & Adapted by Richard LaGravenese
124 minutes

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