Beautiful Creatures

Life in small town Gatlin is a dead end affair for generations of its inhabitants, including Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), until a mysterious raven haired 15-year old girl named Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) rolls into town.  Counting the days until her 16th birthday when she, and her supernatural powers, will be claimed for the light or the dark, Ethan and Lena struggle to ensure she won’t fall into the dark clutches of her mother, Sarafine (Emma Thompson).

Also starring Jeremy Irons as Macon, Lena’s uncle, Emmy Rossum as Ridley, Lena’s cousin, and Viola Davis as the seer, Amma, Beautiful Creatures was directed and adapted for the screen by Richard LaGravenese.

Boasting an amazing existing fanbase thanks to the bestselling books by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, the film adaptation of Beautiful Creatures is definitely orchestrated to appeal to a certain crowd.  But, is it just another in a long stream of fantastic, superficial teenage romances or does Beautiful Creatures aspire to something greater?

Jam-packed with themes and settings that could be thought provoking (Ethan is a banned-book junkie, reading Vonnegut, Miller, Salinger), inspiring, and empowering for a new generation, Beautiful Creatures is a flat, safe, and lackluster film.

Featuring performances from Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, and Viola Davis, Beautiful Creatures is an unfortunate collaboration for the trio of gifted actors.  While some of us will enjoy the over-the-top Southern accents and performances of Thompson and Irons, others will find them grating and forced especially coming from two Academy Award winning actors.

For me, Thompson – in any incarnation – is enough to warrant a ticket price.  At least, for now.

Curses, witchcraft, religion, forbidden romance, oh my!  Even as the days wane before Lena will be “claimed”, there is never a real sense of danger, the tension never builds, and even though you see Emmy Rossum’s Ridley force a police officer off the road so she won’t be pulled over for speeding (from which the officer presumably dies), you never really fear Lena being taken by the dark.  It’s unfortunate, too.  After 2+ hours watching the events unfold, the final showdown hardly feels, well … final.

Beautiful Creatures waffles between its many diatribes, simultaneously asking its audience to aspire to be something other than what they are destined to be while condemning Lena to face her fate all because of some 160+ year old family curse.

Like the characters whose struggles it portrays, Beautiful Creatures is a film that tries too hard to be something it cannot be.

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