Beautiful Creatures (PG-13)
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This came out in 2013, but I didn't see it until 2018. It's based on a series of books I haven't read. It's also obviously meant to appeal to fans of stuff like the Twilight series. But unfortunately, this movie did poorly at the box office, and not particularly well critically. I must say, however, I thought it was considerably better than "Twilight," because it actually made sense for the main characters to fall in love. Sure, it happened faster than it would in real life, but it's still one of the rare movies where I didn't particularly have to suspend disbelief about the romance. As opposed to "Twilight," where we're simply expected to accept that the characters are in love because we're told they are, without being given any reason whatsoever for it. (To be fair, I haven't read those books either, so I'm only basing my opinion on the movies.)
Anyway, it begins with some narration from one of the main characters, a teenager named Ethan Wate, who has been having a recurring dream about a girl he never quite meets in those dreams. We also quickly learn that he wants to get out of his small hometown of Gatlin, South Carolina. And he likes reading books that have been banned by his local church. And... his mother died some time ago. Since then, his father has never left his room, I guess, and we never once see him in the entire movie. I mean, it sounds to me like he doesn't even go to work, so I have no idea how the family has money to live on. They certainly don't seem to be rich, or anything. Maybe I'm wrong, and he does go to work. But either way, he's of no importance to the story. Also I should say, there's a friend of the family named Amma (Viola Davis), who frequently checks in on Ethan. And she's a librarian, so given Ethan's love of reading, it makes sense that they'd have a close relationship.
At the start of the movie, Ethan begins his junior year of high school, and is looking forward to going away to college. Meanwhile, his ex-girlfriend, Emily, at first wants to reunite with him... though the two of them seem to have nothing in common. She soon feels threatened by the arrival of a new girl named Lena Duchannes, who immediately captures Ethan's interest, without even trying. However, I don't think that's the main reason Emily immediately hates Lena. Rather, it's because Lena is part of the Ravenwood family, who founded the town, but are mysterious outsiders whom everyone believes to be devil-worshipers. Everyone except Ethan, that is. And everyone's hatred of that family only makes Ethan want to get closer to Lena, to make sure she's okay, and let her know not everyone thinks the way the other townsfolk do. (I mean, he's not the only open-minded person in Gatlin. His friend Link seems alright. And of course Amma is a decent person.) But I must say, the most hateful person in town is probably Link's devout Christian mother, Mavis Lincoln (Emma Thompson).
Anyway... Ethan soon pursues a friendship with Lena. (It also isn't too long before he realizes she's the girl from his dreams.) She tries to be off-putting at first, but soon warms to his charm. And I daresay they are kindred spirits. They both like reading, and while they may not have read the same things, they have similar tastes, and can get good recommendations from each other for things to read. Also there's the fact that in their own ways, they're both outsiders. It doesn't take long for us to learn that Lena's family are "casters," which means they have magic powers. So the townsfolk were right to some extent, except that they don't worship the Devil (and perhaps don't even believe in such a being). But I think there's an interesting parallel between the fact that Lena has spent her life outside of humanity, wishing to be normal, and the fact that Ethan has spent his life wishing to be part of the larger world outside of Gatlin. However, Lena's uncle Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons) disapproves of the burgeoning romance between Lena and Ethan. It takes longer for us to find out exactly why that is. But Lena's 16th birthday is approaching, at which time her "true nature" will decide whether she is claimed for the side of light or dark magic. Macon wants to ensure she is claimed by light, and has reason to believe her relationship with Ethan could ultimately turn her to darkness (though I don't want to spoil what that reason is).
Meanwhile, Macon has always told Lena that her parents had died. Um... I actually don't think we learn anything about who her father was, but we do learn that her mother, Sarafine, is a dark caster, who wants to ensure that Lena is claimed by the dark side. We never really see Sarafine incarnate, but we do see her possessing the body of Mavis Lincoln (which is rather ironic). Also, some other relatives will eventually come to town, in anticipation of Lena's claiming. The most important of these is her cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum), who is in league with Sarafine. And... when Ethan learns the truth about Lena's family, he's pretty quick to accept it all, and is unwaveringly certain that Lena's true nature is good. So of course he wants to help in any way he can, which mostly means providing moral support. The two of them also receive some help from Amma, who turns out to know a lot about everything that's going on.
Beyond that, I guess I don't really want to spoil any more details of the plot. But I definitely liked the romantic aspect of the movie. The supernatural elements were okay, though they probably would have become clearer if there had been sequels. (Maybe I should read the books.) It's also nice to see characters who like reading, and actually thinking. And I felt like the movie at least scratched the surface of some interesting ideas concerning philosophy and theology. I would have liked those ideas to be explored more in depth, but even scratching the surface is more than most movies do, in any sort of believable way. (And those that do get in depth are more likely to be one-sided, without what I'd call real thinking. I felt like this movie and these characters would have actually put some genuine thought into the subject, if they really delved into it.) Sigh. Anyway... the movie's not as good as it could have been, but like I said, it's still better than some more successful movies. I definitely enjoyed it.