Beautiful Creatures (2013)
How can you possibly resist a film that dismisses witches with the same energy that it dismisses homosexuals, liberals and Democrats? It’s almost like crashing a Tea Party gathering.
Rating: Can be seen on any screen, particularly if you, like me, still resent last year’s Oscars where Meryl Streep won over a far more deserving Viola Davis.
After seeing Beautiful Creatures, one could only wish that Screenwriter/Director Richard LaGravenese would have been assigned to work his magic on the pedestrian Twilight series. Simply stated, this is a supernatural tale set in the Deep South, and it brings surprising beauty, style and satirical charm to witchcraft at any level.
What makes Beautiful Creatures work begins with an unexpected scalding script that skewers both pious religious forces and sanctimonious political views that are so prevalent in our country today. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is considered sacred. In the process, it pokes a completely surprising stick in the eye of pandering moralists, and in the process delivers a monumental dose of piss and vinegar.
The movie focuses on a story of two young people with common goals although they are unknowingly from different worlds. Alden Ehrenreich plays Ethan Wate, a young high school student bored to death by the tedium of Gatlin, South Carolina, his small hometown. Though Ethan’s mother has died in a car accident, she spent her life working in the local library and taught him the intelligence to be found from reading books. You know that you are going to like him from the beginning when he is initially seen holding a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five”.
Opposite him is Alice Englert, playing Lana Duchannes, a girl on the edge of her 16th birthday. She has moved into Gatlin from out-of-town, and the local kids, as well as their parents, hate her simply because she is different. In the process, she harbors powers that will cause many of them to regret their ignorance.
As the hometown kids wrestle with their future, you soon learn that Lana is a young witch who will discover on her birthday if she is destined to be on life’s dark side. Known as Casters, these witches possess the same ironic weaknesses as their human counterparts.
Both Mr. Ehrenreich and Ms. Englert are wonderful actors, and Mr. Ehrenreich bears a striking resemblance to a young Leonardo DiCaprio. He has a similar grin and pixie attitude. Additionally, he has but one principal goal in life, and that is to get as far away from his reclusive town as possible.
But as good as the young people are in this film, Beautiful Creatures is elevated to a fun movie as a result of some superior performances by Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis and the great Emma Thompson. All three give the movie some immense credibility that will keep you involved with its ultimate destination regardless of your attitude when you enter the theater.
Mr. Irons plays Macon Ravenwood, the principal founder of Gatlin and Lena’s Caster uncle. He is a droll, sophisticated man, and his resentment of his pedestrian neighbors is exceeded only by his desire to save Lena from the dark side.
Viola Davis plays Ethan’s caretaker by day and by night a seer who tries to bridge the gap between the Casters and the humans. She also recognizes the ignorance that permeates the entire town, and does her best to succeed Ethan’s deceased mother as head of the local library.
But it is Ms. Thompson who steals the film, playing both a local religious zealot who hates both Macon and his niece, while doubling as a dark witch with a nasty secret and a very bad attitude.
In the process, she is flamboyantly funny, and I can only paraphrase her attempted dismissal of Macon when he entered a church gathering uninvited.
In the process, she screamed out, “I hope you burn in hell, along with other extremists like terrorists, homosexuals, Democrats, liberals and Greenpeace people.” There are other similar moments in the film, and this is a movie that you are drawn to despite wanting to resist.
I should also note that Emmy Rossum plays Ridley Ducheannes, a hot, deviant older sister of Lena’s, who targeted the dark side years ago. She is as malevolent as she is resourceful, and is a far better villain than any appearing in the Twilight movies.
The last thing you would expect in this type of film is a script with a challenging and admittedly progressive theme. For example, Gatlin is a town that calls upon its religious beliefs as a basis to condemn books like “To Kill a Mockingbird”.
Equally important, the film is smart enough to let these zealots make fun of themselves. In resisting organized prayer in the public school, kids like Ethan know that knowledge is not derived from simply believing what you are told.
Finally, I have never made a secret of being attracted to movies about star-crossed lovers. Think of Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca (1942), not to mention Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen in Starman (1984). Here, it is clear that Ethan and Lena are passionately in love, but they have to choose a course of action that will not destroy the other.
So take a chance and buy a ticket. You won’t be amazed, but you will be surprised.