By Jane Boursaw
If, like me, you’re in some snowy part of the planet where the temperatures are dipping towards zero, you might be dreaming of a nice, warm, sunny locale. If you can’t go there in person, Beautiful Creatures lets you spend a couple of hours there in the theater.
The movie was filmed in three locations in Louisiana — Covington, St. Francisville, and New Orleans — and you can just feel the oppressive heat and even more oppressive attitudes of the residents of the fictional town of Gatlin, South Carolina.
Before I launch into the review, a big thank you to Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl for writing such a compelling story. They’re the authors of the novel on which this movie is based, and I hope the rest of the series, including “Beautiful Darkness,” “Beautiful Chaos,” and “Beautiful Redemption” are made into movies, as well. Look, we’ve been mired in vampires for years, and now it’s time for the witches to take over.
The story follows Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), a 16-year-old boy who lives in the aforementioned town of Gatlin, South Carolina. He thinks the town is dull as a doornail, and he can’t wait to graduate and move away.
On the first day of his junior year, Ethan meets a new classmate named Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert). Lena is … different. She’s a bit dark and mysterious, and she’s also the 15-year-old niece of wealthy town recluse Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons).
Lena also bears an uncanny resemblance to a girl who’s been frequenting Ethan’s dreams. As they get to know each other, Ethan begins to realize that Lena and her family are witches, or as they like to be called, “Casters,” as in “spell casters.” Following the tradition of her family, Lena will learn on her 16th birthday whether she’ll be claimed for the “forces of light” or “the forces of darkness.” There’s some discrepancy whether she gets to have a say in the matter.
The cast of “Beautiful Creatures” is nothing short of amazing. We’ve got Jeremy Irons chewing up the scenery, Emma Thompson with a drunkenly Southern accent, Viola Davis as the town librarian with a secret, Zoey Deutch as a young Southern belle, Eileen Atkins as a lavender-haired gramma, Margo Martindale as bustling Aunt Del, and Emmy Rossum as a siren who can make men do whatever she wants, including teenager Thomas Mann, who doesn’t seem to mind a bit.
And it’s clear that both Ehrenreich, who reminds me of a young James Badge Dale, and Englert, who has an ethereal quality about her, are rising stars able to mine the depth of their souls for these roles. Die-hard fans of “Supernatural” will recognize Ehrenreich from the “Wendigo” episode of season five; he played Ben Collins. Englert, the daughter of filmmakers Jane Campion and Colin Englert, is wonderful in 2012’s “Ginger & Rosa.”
As with many book adaptations, “Beautiful Creatures” strays from the novel, but it’s tough to streamline 600 pages into a two-hour movie. I’m happy with the result because director Richard LaGravenese has retained the overriding themes, characters and tone. The setting includes lush Southern locales, complete with a vine-covered mansion with an iron gate at the driveway and a magnificent interior that’s like something out of a Renoir painting.
Because of the Louisiana setting, the movie has a bit of a “True Blood” feel to it, only rated PG-13. And just when you think the ending is a done deal and that’s all she wrote, the last few seconds brings hope for a sequel. Please, pretty please?
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