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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Film Review: Beautiful Creatures

I always intend to review book-based movies after seeing them (to the point that, on the way home from the movie, I'm drafting the review in my head, and all the clever* things I'm going to say...), but I never seem to sit down and actually write them.
Well, enough of that.
The very best Evie I know (aka my bestie) and I were each other's Vday dates for a matinee of Beautiful Creatures, and this time, you guys are gonna hear about it.

Okay, so I can't speak to accuracy from the text because I sort of haven't read it yet. I mean, I own it and was going to before seeing the movie, but then I realized that was just setting it up for failure. When does the movie ever live up? A: it doesn't. That just doesn't happen. And this would be doubly true if I were to read the book right before the movie, and then suffer through all the glaringly obvious differences or mistakes, etc. I mean, that way lies dissatisfaction, so I decided to hold off on reading the book so I could go into the movie unbiased.  So if you're a diehard fan of the book series, I'm sorry, I can't tell you how it measures up. But if you're not a fan, or you haven't read it yet, or you haven't even wanted to, then perfect! This review is aimed at you, because I'm approaching it solely on its success as a movie.

So, the story is of a teen named Ethan in a narrow-minded small-town in the South, when behold! a wild teen witch oops not that one...or that one "caster" appears and hijinks ensue. But not so lighthearted, you know. Angst, people, we're talking teen angst!

As far as it goes, the story is solid enough, (predictable, of course, but when aren't these things?); the timeline, though, is a little too compressed. Things happen very quickly, and the passing of days is shown mostly through a flip-calendar style tattoo, so some of the depth or slow-build I would have liked is kinda non-existent. At one point, almost a month had passed and I thought it was the next morning until 1/2 through the scene. But for all that, once your mind plays catch up with the characters, the story is solid enough to be enjoyable and tick all the teen romance/paranormal/Southern gothic boxes.

I mean... its got Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson in it. And Viola Davis. And Emmy Rossum. And Eileen Atkins. And the kid who played Cassidy Beaver Casablancas.
Beaver! You've grown up
...and joined Flock of Seagulls?

I'm not gonna lie when I say it was the casting that convinced me to see this movie. Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson. I figured, with those two in the movie, it's gotta be good, right?  Well, yes and no. Jeremy Irons is Jeremy freaking Irons fantastic, but Emma Thompson is (surprisingly) off on occasion. Though I think it's an intentional, loose-cannon kind of off, and for the most part I liked it.
Viola Davis & Emmy Rossum are solid; Eileen Atkins has a more bit part, but she has lavender hair, so...she wins.**

But the stars of the show are Lena and Ethan, and they're probably who you really want to hear about. Relative newcomers Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert have the job of carrying most of the movie, and for the most part, do a good job. Alden-as-Ethan was unbelievably adorkable. For serious cutes, and it is worth it for his performance alone, I'd say. Lena says something along the lines of Ethan not being able to stop himself from drooling charm, and I think Alden absolutely got that right.  I'm a little more lukewarm on Englert, who won me over much of the time, but occasionally was a little too angsty for my tastes. And her sort of pan-Southern accent wavered (as did a number of the non-Southern castmates), and I found that distracting.  But overall, the chemisty between the two is believable and the cast worth it.

This is where the movie shines.
If it isn't clear already from the way I organize my books or this month's Book Chat, I'm a visual person. The look of a movie - both in cinematography and costuming - can win me over when I'm otherwise not sold (and is in fact the reason I've come to love the 2005 Pride & Prejudice, which I originally found horribly disappointing...).

Now, the special effects were by turns awesome and atrocious. They waffled from Ooh, that was cool! to, really? is this a syfy channel B movie? I mean, it's not like seeing-the-strings bad, but sometimes it was just a bit...off. I think the good times outweighed the bad, though, and I liked the special effects in the end.

But the rest of the look. Oh man. The sets, especially the ever-changing interior of Ravenwood Manor, were packed with visual interestingness.  At one point, Evie looked at me and said she wanted to decorate a room in her house like a room in the movie.  It may have been a completely impractical house/set design, but it was prettttty and packed a punch.

But the costumes! THE COSTUMES! Oh, the wardrobe department had a field day, and I would rewatch it just to get a better look at all of that. There's a real artistic vision guiding the costume and set design choices in the movie - and the way they worked together/played off each other - and the movie is enjoyable for that alone.

Emmy Rossum gets to wear all teh things

Similar to the special fx, the scoring was by turns fabulous and jarring. Personally, I really liked it nearly all the time, but I think the scoring and  music choices will either make people fall in love or drive them completely away, according to personal tastes. Generally, the score is something you don't really notice - it's in the background, and you think of it only after the fact, or when it's obtrusive. But I think everyone will notice the scoring of this - and for some, that will jar them out of the story. Others - like myself - will think, Oooh, I like how that compliments this scene, or Ohhh, that's pretty/neat/ominous...

So for me this is a win, and I'd actually like to look into the score more, but I think for others, this will be a complete fail, just for how strong a part of the movie it is. This is not subtle background music...

It's a teen supernatural romance. There's angst. There's insta-love. There's dark, gloomy, smolderingness. This one's down to tastes, and I'll watch and love a lot of things in a movie that I'd never tolerate in books, so for me, it works. These are fun bits of escapism, and I think this one does it better than most.

As I said, I can't speak to the accuracy compared to the book, but as a movie it really worked for me, and I hope they make the entire series and don't just peter out like a lot of book-movie franchises do.

* I'm very modest.

**Note to self, must have lavender old lady hair when am old lady.


  1. Any movie that has Eileen Atkins will lavender hair is well worth seeing.

  2. I loved your verdict. I still can't decide. But yo I'm SO with you on having lavender hair when I'm old. I've always loved the idea of having pastel hair colors once I go white.

  3. Yes! I really do look forward to it.
    The minute Eileen stepped onscreen, I looked at Evie and said, Remind me when we're old that I have to die my hair lavender. lol

  4. Thanks for the awesome review! I have read the book and was trying to decide if I should watch-your review made me put it on my must see list. Loved the detailed descriptions and break down!

  5. I just read the books and was trying to decide if i should fork over the $10 to see Beautiful Creatures in theaters. Thanks for the review. If nothing else it sounds pretty, and OMG JEREMY IRONS.

  6. Unfortunately... I just saw that this filmed bombed at the box office this holiday weekend. Don't think we will see a second movie. :(


  7. I really wanted to read the book before seeing the movie but I was waiting to borrow it from my sister... and ran out of time, so I can't compare either but I have to say I did LOVE the movie!

  8. I'm excited to see it. I enjoyed the book not a ton but enough. The book has history and world-building. I think the book was good just for that and the rest of it window-dressing. I just love the history and story the authors put into the books. You don't get that enough nowadays, IMO.

  9. Okay, I am one of those that must read the book before I see the movie. I have to compare. And I am really afraid to see this one because the hype and the blurbs and the trailers all make it seem like it is not much like the book. The book wasn't really so hung up on the romance.

    But since you liked it so much for the visuals, and I am a very visual person, I could maybe set aside my comparison and watch just for the aesthetics. The way the rooms inside the mansion were described were incredible. I'd love to see those and the Labyrinth.

    Thank you for reviewing it! I have been dying for someone to say something, anything about it!


  10. Valid points. It was quite visually stunning and the costumes were ace!

  11. I freaking love the lavender haired old lady shot. yes me too me too I wants it! I think I'll go teal though haha.

    seriously - I saw the preview several times and it looks terrible! Like you, I haven't read the book...so I wouldn't be able to compare...but even so. I'm waiting til it comes to cable.
    Pabkins @ My Shelf Confessions

  12. Beautiful Creatures is the movie that I am so impressed with, I watched it a long time ago on PlayTV Geh app at TechBigs, you can download this app by clicking veja aqui


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