When I first started the reviews I wasn’t as professional and far less verbose with the Beautiful Creatures review coming in at a mere 354 words. My average now is closer to between 700 and 1000 words. Also when I saw this movie the first time, it attracted me enough to its style and world that I broke one of my rules. I read the book. No, thats not quite right, I devoured the books. I ordered the first book when I got home from the film, then in a single night read it. I ordered the remaining three books and read each one in a night. As we begin this review let me preface it with this statement: This book series would have made a fantastic movie!! I loved it. Ok I loved 3 of the 4 but that’s par for the course with trilogies that turn into quadrilogies. This is not a condemnation of the movie, but a mere statement that I am able to – in this case – judge each independently.
So yes, this is another one of the films Hollywood has tried to shuffle out in the young adult genre to find the next Twilight or Hunger Games. It had a rather awesome ad campaign which introduced me to the awesome sound of Florence and the Machine, at least made me aware of them. Seven Devils *shivers*
Adapted for the screen and directed by relative newcomer to the chair Richard LaGravenese. LaGravenese was no stranger to the writers chair being involved in the screenplay of the acclaimed Fisher King, Horse Whisperer, and Bridges of Madison County. He was even nominated for an Academy award for Fisher King. He understands quite a bit about human nature and the importance of the right dialogue to establish your characters. The importance of chemistry and charisma with the characters is as important. For these reasons, he gets a pass on most, but not all, of the changes from the original source material. Quite a bit of the original material would have been difficult to shoot on the best of days and other elements with the budget they had would have, to put it bluntly, looked as bad as the wolves in the Day After Tomorrow or something just slightly better than what SyFy does. Even the removing and combining of characters is accepted within the narrative considering the roles some of them played.
The source material from Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is rich and beautiful and southern. Granted I am partial as being a girl from South Carolina for the first part of my life. I love the southern life. I love southern charm. I love (most) of small town southern culture. The majority of this was captured on film, until Act III. The changes here are to put it mildly so bloody annoying in comparison. From a pure film narrative, they work, don’t get me wrong; but from book to screen they fail on every conceivable level.
What makes this movie work though is pure chemistry and charm. There’s a line in the film that fits the nature of the two leads “you can’t help it can you / drooling with charm”. It does. It does so much. Most of this is because of Alden Ehrenreich as Ethan Wate and Alice Englert as Lena Duchannes. Alden sadly, has not done much since, but was in the truly bizarre film Twixt. Englert has had similar lack of career evolution since then. Alone in the film each one is worth watching. Together they have chemistry unlike anything I’ve seen in a young adult film. Twilight, we know is an abomination when it comes to the love story, and the reserved nature of Jennifer Lawrence in Hunger Games makes the chemistry hard at times. Alden nails the southern boy wanting to get out of town, the shock of what he finds out, and the power of true love. Englert, she played the character so well I fell in love with the character as much as Ethan. Her fear, her hesitation, her desperation, her almost goth vibe – nailed. Together though, I rarely see a couple look and feel so natural – no matter the genre.
The supporting cast is nearly as incredible. Jeremy Irons chews scenery as the master he is in the role of Macon Ravenwood. Seriously, if you need to learn the definition of chewing scenery – watch him here, especially with his own southern accent. Viola Davis ( who you can watch chew scenery in How to Get Away with Murder) comes in equally strong as Amma. Two time Oscar winner Emma Thompson as Mrs. Lincoln seems determined to try to show up Irons in the scenery diet. She almost succeeds a few times. Emmy Rossum (Phantom of the Opera, Poseidon) and Thomas Mann (Project X, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) are relegated to side kick roles. Aside from sexy vamp, there’s little to say about Rossum here. Mann thankfully has shown up more in other films and is largely forgettable here relegated to Ethans best friend.
Ok, most of the effects are kinda weak. They aren’t the best but they are not the worst either. I have a partial love for the tornadoes seen in one of the trailers.Make up and wardrobe nailed it, until act 3. There’s some ridiculousness there that gives me a headache just thinking about it.
I love this movie. It is totally unappreciated and deeply underrated. It isn’t a great film, it was not the second coming of YA in film – though I wish it had been. When I was in Ennis last winter it happened to be on TV and me and my coworker who I did not expect to like it both watched. He really likes the film. The two people I saw it with initially, both went in highly dubious and came out enjoying it – probably not as much as I did but still enjoyed it. While this one isnt at Frozen levels of obsession for me, it is still pretty high on my list.
You can also read the books – they are worth it too.