Beautiful Creatures [Blu-Ray] Richard LaGravenese

Beautiful Creatures [Blu-Ray] Richard LaGravenese
7
During the climactic battle of Beautiful Creatures (the first of four instalments of The Caster Chronicles), a hardcore Republican schoolmarm, embodied by the spirit of a dark caster ("caster" being the politically correct term for "witch"), exclaims, "love was just something made up to keep women occupied while men took over the world." It's a decidedly contrary statement to the ethos purported by the plethora of Twilight-inspired teen fantasy fare gradually making the transition from purple prose to the big screen. Similarly, the structure of this surprisingly cerebral drama has an inverted formula, with small-town charmer Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) developing a crush on mysterious newcomer Lena (Alice Englert), despite the generalized social disdain for her affluent, reclusive uncle, Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons). As a mid-movie sermon outlines, along with the many mentions of the subverting power of a pseudo-aristocratic birthright turning people into (using the nomenclature presented in the film) bitches, sacrifice is about sharing and giving up a part of what is yours to help the greater good. Injecting this into a modern social context, the central conflict, wherein Lena is destined to become a dark witch at the age of 16, if she isn't careful, is that of one-percent greed entitlement. Furthering this assertion is a backstory taking place during the Civil War — something that is re-enacted annually in the southern town of Gatlin, South Carolina and central to the story — showing that history has a tendency to repeat itself overtly, noting that we never seem to learn from it. One character even jokes, "They keep re-enacting the battle like it's somehow going to have a different outcome." And while the comparison of slavery to the modern construct of greed is a bit glib, it is a rather clever parallel tactic for young readers (or viewers), giving some real world context to the central message of sacrifice, compassion and independence at the core. Of course, making all of this accessible for a youth audience is the forbidden love story at the centre, wherein Ethan (who is written with more depth and range than usual, having a sense of humour and a psychological rationale for his desires) pines after Lena, who learns that acknowledging her feelings could shift their lives to a dark path forever. This pained union is treated with the tenderness needed for it to work, having more to it than moony glances and tortured exposition. Both characters are fed clever dialogue that comes from their individual dispositions, rather than the demands of the narrative. Even the litany of secondary characters has specific motivations and vocabularies, fleshing out a complex and rather engrossing world of Southern gothic sorcery. It's just unfortunate that Richard LaGravenese isn't the most visionary director, relying on costume and art direction to push us into this alternate world. But he does focus his attention on the subtext and romance at hand, so there's something to think and care about while the story goes through its mostly predictable motions. All of the supplemental material included with the Blu-Ray is bland, promotional white noise, which is actually a good thing, forcing the viewer to draw their own conclusions on the forward-thinking, complex storytelling tactics and cultural positioning of the text. (eOne)