Sunday, June 23, 2013

Erin O'Riordan's Movie Review of 'Beautiful Creatures'

I'm getting really embarrassed by how many movies I've seen lately based on books I did not read. I didn't read Cloud Atlas, Warm Bodies, The Silver Linings Playbook or Beautiful Creatures, but now I've seen all those movies. The next thing in my Netflix queue is the version of Mansfield Park with Jonny Lee Miller, and it's one of the Jane Austen novels that I haven't read. (Which is most of them. I've only read Pride and Prejudice thus far, unless you count Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.)

I do read, I swear. I just can't read everything.


To be honest, when I went to watch Beautiful Creatures, I hoped for a sort of gender-reversed Twilight, with the young woman (Lena) being the powerful supernatural being and the young man (Ethan) being the weak, helplessly enamored mortal. There was some of that in this movie.

It's a dark, sad, beautiful movie with an intelligent, delightfully sass-mouthed heroine and a hero whose pastimes include reading books that have been banned from his small Southern town's library. They can't be together because her supernatural powers are dangerous and she's afraid she might kill him. Beautiful Creatures isn't a Twilight knock-off, though.

Lena is a witch, but she prefers to be called a caster. When she arrives at the single high school in Ethan's town, her classmates accuse her of being a devil worshiper. One of them starts a loud prayer in the middle of their public school classroom, and the windows shatter - for which everyone immediately blames Lena. She's in danger of being kicked out of school.

The actors playing Ethan and Lena are fairly unknown, although the actress's mother is the famed director Jane Campion. Beautiful Viola Davis plays the woman who acts as a foster mother to Ethan since his bio mom died. Jeremy Irons plays Lena's foster parent, her uncle Macon. Macon is a dark caster, but he chooses to be "light" for Lena's sake. Male casters have a choice; female casters are Claimed for either the light or the dark on their sixteenth birthdays. Lena's 16th birthday is rapidly approaching.

Lena's bio mom, Serafine, is played by Emma Thompson. Serafine is supposed to be the most powerful dark caster, and she's convinced Lena will be Claimed by the dark. It seems all the women in their family have been claimed by the dark since an ancestor used forbidden magic to bring her lover, killed in the Civil War, back from the dead. Thus, the family is cursed.


If we've told you once, we've told you a million times, kids: do not use magic to bring a loved one back from the dead. Douglas Clegg told you so in Isis, and J.K. Rowling did again in the three brothers' tale within Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. What has been claimed by death is meant to stay dead, because that is way nature works. When our loved ones die, we wish them safe passage to the other world, commend them into the arms of the Goddess and, most importantly, do NOT try to bring them back. Lesson learned, kiddos?

Emma Thompson could tell you that; she was, after all, Sybill Trelawney in the Harry Potter movies. She was also in Sense and Sensibility, in the lovely version with  Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Severus Snape -er, Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon. Furthermore, she was Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing before Amy Acker took over the role. This all makes her sound very British, but Emma Thompson has some surprising American accent skills.

Jeremy Irons is very good in this, as the loving but imposing Uncle Macon. My favorite Jeremy Irons movie is still The Man in the Iron Mask (loosely based on a Dumas classic I have not read), and in my all-time favorite episode of The Simpsons, "Lisa's Rival," Lisa is challenged to form an anagram of "Jeremy Irons" that describes the actor. (It's much harder than it seems. The best option Wordsmith.org comes up with is, "Jeer, sir? My, no.") Lisa's best guess is "Jeremy's iron."

Uncle Macon thinks of a way to undo the curse, but only at the cost of a great sacrifice. For this reason, although she loves Ethan dearly, Lena is unwilling to be with him anymore. She makes him forget the two of them had ever met. It's heartbreaking stuff. (Yeah, it's a little bit like when Edward abandoned Bella in New Moon.)

The ending only served to make me want more. I liked this a lot, more than I liked Warm Bodies or Silver Linings Playbook. May I have the sequel now, please?

1 comment:

Natalie said...

My 10 year old loves this movie. I haven't even seen it yet!