"Beautiful Creatures" offers smart, hip take on supernatural teen romance
YOU HAVE TO WONDER how it's possible that casting directors got all the way through Harry Potter without hiring Jeremy Irons.
Ditto, "Twilight," which offered a gig to Michael Sheen as the Euro vampire pope, a role that would have suited Irons to a V.
And it's not as if Irons doesn't have an Oscar. Maybe that's the problem - cinema's Claus Von Bulow could hardly pass as Dumbledore, though I think he would have made a fine Voldemort.
Still, there is no shortage of franchises with roles for hammy warlocks, and Irons finally gets his payday in "Beautiful Creatures."
He has the movie's best scene, seated formally at a piano like Liberace of the Damned, staring past his daughter Lena (Alice Englert) to her suitor Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), revealing to the optimistic young man a long and detailed future of compromise, disappointment, thwarted dreams, alcoholism and decay.
It's a lot funnier than it sounds. The whole enterprise, in fact, is like a slightly snarky version of "Twilight," with a little gender-mandering.
Here, it's the girl who's the teen with the special powers (she's essentially a witch). The boy is the mortal whose stammering adolescent crush interferes with the balance between the natural and supernatural worlds.
And where Edward and Bella loved no subject so much as themselves, this new couple is refreshingly eggheady. They're bookish outsiders at school, and bond over their shared love of locally banned books, which explains how he can be grooving on Beat poets and Ayn Rand at the same time.
In fact, all secrets that bind their past (there's a reincarnation angle) and future lives can be found at the local library, where the girl learns her craft from the world's only voodoo librarian (Viola Davis).
Viola Davis? Jeremy Irons? Wait, there's more in the way of Oscar-night perennials (Englert is the daughter of "Piano" director Jane Campion). Emma Thompson turns up as the local book-banner, whose possesion by an evil spirit gives Thompson a chance to wig out in opposing directions.
It's hard to say what impact the stars will have on the tween audience of this would-be franchise (based on the series of young-adult books).
The central romance will have to connect with a target audience that wants to believe in earnest, eternal love, or love that lasts at least as long as middle school. On that score, the two leads are good together.
But "Twilight" fans went for the spooning and swooning, and this movie's saucy nod to the hip comes at the expense of the latter.