This weekend has been dominated by the newest Bruce Willis box office hit “A Good Day to Die Hard”, the newest addition to the franchise. It had some stiff competition from “Identity Thief”, “Safe Haven” and “Beautiful Creatures”. It seems everyone wanted action, not romance this year. The comedy about identity theft, starring Melissa McCarthy, slipped one spot to the second position while the Nicholas Sparks dramatic romance came in third. Sadly, the teen paranormal romance did not make much of a splash, coming in sixth.
“Beautiful Creatures” is based off the book of the same name. It is part of a four book series about the life of Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), the main character. The story seems to be told from Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), the love interest of Lena’s, point of view. He is prominent all throughout the film, dominating the screen. His mother has passed away, his father refuses to leave his room and Amma is the only one taking care of him. It is made clear early one that Ethan is not like the other boys in town. He enjoys reading banned books while his classmates are more straight laced. Everything changes when Lena comes to town.
Almost immediately, Ethan falls for Lena and they begin spending of lot of time together, which her family does not like. She comes from a long line of “Casters”, which is what they use instead of being called a witch. Her uncle, Macon (Jeremy Irons), is an incubus and her cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum) is a Siren. Lena dreads her sixteenth birthday because it is the day she will be claimed for either the Light or the Dark, meaning she will remain good or turn evil. She manages to keep Ethan in her life and her family warms up to him slowly. But when the time comes, Lena makes a difficult decision in order to get through her Claiming, just in case she joins the Dark. She erases Ethan’s memory.
During the town’s historical reenactment of the Civil War battles in Gatlin (fictional town set in South Carolina), Ethan is mortally wounded by his best friend, Link. Lena feels her boyfriend’s pain and hurries off to meet him. She runs through the fake battle, which is reminiscent of a story about a curse placed on her mentioned earlier in the film. It is revealed that Macon was disguised as Ethan and dies in Lena’s arms. She is then pitted against Ridley and her mother Sarafine, the strongest Dark caster. Following Macon’s last words about claiming her own destiny, Lena chooses to be both Light and Dark. The film concludes with a chance meeting between Ethan and Lena, where he says he is going to New York. Before they can reach the main highway, Ethan’s memory returns and he shouts her name. Lena hears him and the screen goes to black.
Overall, “Beautiful Creatures” is aimed for a younger crowd. It plays towards those who are looking to fill the void after the end of the “Twilight Saga”. The film focuses mainly on young people, with any older characters being shoved very far into the background. Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis play important roles, but they have been severely reduced in the story. Emma Thompson has one of the best performances in the entire film as the deceptively sweet Mrs. Lincoln. Her performance is over the top and incredibly well done.
The visual effects in the film are amazing, especially during a scene shown in the previews. It’s where Lena and her family are in a room that is spinning. The film does a good job capturing the event and it still keeps the emotional impact. Emmy Rossum made and excellent Ridley. Her costumes were very sensual without being too revealing. She exuded sexuality in a very tasteful way but also slightly overt. There are other members of the family, but they are mentioned in passing. Macon’s mother has a small role, as well as a few other characters who aren’t really expanded on. The problem with that is having someone introduced but never truly explained. This causes some confusion to the audience.
The main problem with “Beautiful Creatures” is the script. It’s poorly written and the actors must have been advised to really play up the Southern accent. One example is when someone says the phrase “heart attack” and it comes across as “hort attack”. While the film is set in South Carolina, it can be noted that not everyone has such a thick accent. The dialogue means well, but it just comes across cheesy. Almost everything Ethan says is either slightly desperate sounding or mildly annoying. When he is with Lena, he lays the sweetness on thicker than maple syrup. When things get tough, his lines get even worse. Again, the film means well but it falls just short of decent.
Another huge problem with the film is the sexuality. Parents should be advised that there is a good amount of sensuality. While Ridley is tastefully sensual, the attraction between Lena and Ethan is far from subtle. They spent a lot of time making out, which is uncomfortable to watch. There is also a brief scene where it is implied that they had sex. This is problematic because Ethan is roughly sixteen and it is established that Lena is fifteen. It doesn’t help that the chemistry between Ehrenreich and Englert feels very forced and unnatural, which makes the racier scenes unbelievable.
This film didn’t fare well against “Safe Haven” and “A Good Day to Die Hard”. It came in at number six, which isn’t the best debut for a movie that had so much advertising. “Beautiful Creatures” is rated PG-13 for violence, strong language, some scary images and sexuality.