Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) doesn’t quite fit in to the conservative, small-minded town of Gaitlin, South Carolina. He doesn’t dress like the other kids. He can’t relate to them. He reads books. In fact, he reads the books that the bible-bashing majority has banned. He relates to Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, and like the Slaughterhouse Five character he’s trapped by his surroundings, daydreaming of other places. Enter Alice Englert (Lena Duchannes), the only dark-haired girl for three counties and a kindred spirit: while he might read, she reads poetry. Sparks fly and a love stronger than vampire and an apathetic teenager soon burns brightly between the two. Oh, did I mention, Alice also happens to be a witch?
However the relationship between the two isn’t as simple as your average boy-meets-girl-girl-turns-out-to-be-a-witch romantic comedy, far from. There’s the issue of her family, a collection of good and evil witches, or as we’re told specifically, ‘Casters’, witches being the term used only by mortals, that are vying for dear Alice’s soul. There’s also the prickly conundrum of her sixteenth birthday, where it is prophesied that she will probably turn evil due to a family curse and more than likely murder her new beau and wreak the end of days for mankind alike. Yep, poor Ethan sure has his plate full.
From this point on Beautiful Creatures pretty much writes itself; if you’re a fan of teenage fiction, especially the supernatural kind, you’ll anticipate the plot as you go along. Intense adolescent love, implied sex scenes that are powerful enough to quite literally start fires, long gazes with no words spoken, not to mention a bottomless bag-full of tricks, spells and special effects, Richard La Gravenese’s adaptation has it all.
If you’ve detected a hint of sarcasm in the above and it seems like I’m making fun of the film, I’d love to say it was intentional and that Beautiful Creatures is the most uninspired, rip-off movie of the year, but if I said all that I’d be a big, fat liar. For the most part, the story is fairly pedestrian and the plot is completely ripped off from a slew of other movies you’ve seen, most heavily from the vampire genre and not just Twilight, there’s a little Luke Perry moment from Buffy The Vampire Slayer when one of the evil Casters is trying to get into Ethan’s house, but with all that being said, something about Beautiful Creatures works. It could be that Jeremy Irons hams his performance up to a stellar 11/10, camping his way through every seen and alternating accents between southern patriarch and Rodrigo Borgia with every other line; or that Emma Thompson’s performance as the narrow-minded, southern bell come most powerful evil Caster in the world is nothing short of hilarious and expertly acted; or then it could even be that the two youngsters in the film both put in decent performances and are as believable as any couple cast in this genre.
It could also be that the film plays-out like a two-hour Meatloaf power ballad from the early 90s and amid the often wooden dialogue and never-ending exposition there are some genuinely funny moments; and for the times when there aren’t, well, there’s always Mr. Irons and E. Thompson to pick up the slack
Beautiful Creatures is in Australian cinemas from 21 February through Roadshow Films.