It’s less painful than Twilight, at least

Using the supernatural as a metaphor for the woes of teenagedom and depicting adolescent alienation as glamorous or noble are popular gimmicks nowadays, as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Twilight films have shown. Film connoisseurs will typically lament that the blockbuster potential of such films seems even higher if the antihero protagonist exudes what the relevant fan community will consider true inner values, which so often is represented on screen by plenty of outward charm and great looks.

Beautiful Creatures (based on the bestselling novel) appears marred by similar teen-flick clichés, and that’s unfortunate because it will turn many away from a genuine experience. Okay, we’re not talking unforgettable here, nor is this an important or genre-renewing film, but it isn’t half as dull-witted as one might fear.

It’s well shot and has undeniable substance. The acting is above par, and you’ve got to love the guffaw-inducing dialogue. The film itself even has a bit of soul. It scorns ultraconservative, God-fearing narrow-mindedness and celebrates various counter-culture trailblazers.

Taking its opening cues from a typical high-school ‘meet cute’ scenario, Ethan (Ehrenreich) meets Lena (Englert). None of them fits in – he because he hungers for non-conformity, she because she is a ‘caster’ (a kind of witch), troubled by her uncontrollable, violent powers. Puppy love, however, transcends all incompatibility – until Ethan learns that Lena will soon be claimed by either good or evil forces. It could be either.

It’s regrettable that the mythological logic behind Lena’s destiny remains so incomprehensible to the uninitiated viewer. For unsurprisingly, Ethan and Lena wish to get to the bottom of this, to fight for their love – or die trying (Ethan, at least, is mortal). The film’s otherwise graceful style is cramped a bit as the audience is thrown by the dark intricacies.

But then there’s the interesting portrait of the Deep South – a nice touch – and Ehrenreich’s performance, which carries most of the film. Whether the film does it for you will, in the end, I suppose, depend on where you direct your attention – to the confusing supernatural backdrop or to the energy, humour and humaneness.

Beautiful Creatures (11)

Dir: Richard LaGravenese; US drama/fantasy, 2013, 124 mins; Alice Englert, Alden Ehrenreich, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum
Premiered February 21
Playing nationwide