Published Apr 01, 2001From the opening scene over railroad tracks that travels quickly from an Impressionist palette with lovey-dovey overtones to an inane and bloody argument over golf clubs, viewers recognise that the darkly comic "Beautiful Creatures" is a film with intentions to play and disturb in perfect proportions.
The main characters frolic in the deep, muddy puddles of our psyches while carefully placed props and sardonic lines splash out at us and make us question what it means to be a man-woman-beast: a dog wears perfume, women are entwined in metal links, and men bleed dry. But it's never heavy for long. Runny egg sandwiches, severed fingers, zippy music and farty ketchup bottle sounds add jarring humour to uncomfortable interludes.
The male characters in the film are, well, useless fucks full of inner rage. If they're not beating up their women, flipping through the pages of "Babes in Chains," or shooting blanks (and heroin), they're employed as corrupt cops. (Think Alex Norton as the Detective Inspector who "detects things, then, when successful at detecting, inspects things.")
The women in the film, Dorothy (Susan Lynch) and Petula (Rachel Weisz), have the capacity to bond emotionally and feel their way out of catastrophic scenarios. Dorothy arrives home one night, for example, to an apartment hit by a cyclone (aka ex-boyfriend Tony, played by Iain Glen), then manages quite rationally upon discovering her lacey bra brewing in hot oil, her wardrobe splattered with blue paint, and her dog (named Pluto) fake-hanging up by a rope to drip-dry from a red paint bath. From there, en route to freedom, she stumbles upon Petula being pummelled by her equally volatile boyfriend, Brian McMinn (Tom Mannion), and saves the day by bashing his head in with scaffolding. From this point on, Dorothy and Petula join forces (with Pluto) to win back some self-respect and heaps of cash.
The film plays with the notion of woman as "beautiful creature" (and vice versa) and man as beast. Pluto, in the end, is the film's androgynous hero(ine). His white fur is stained soft pink throughout and his eau de cologne cover (masking the acrylic paint fumes) stops men in elevators. He's Dry Clean Only, as Dorothy says, when proclaiming tongue-in-cheek to Petula that he's "half pedigree, half acrylic."
We're never really sure what the characters are made of 100% in this story. But the ambiguity keeps us laughing.