Set in a small town in South Carolina, Beautiful Creatures is the story of Ethan, a teenage boy who recently lost his mother in a car crash and has had a mysterious girl haunting his dreams. Ethan feels out of place in his small minded and insular community and he dreams of escaping and living like the characters he reads about in his books. When Lena walks into his classroom for the first time, Ethan knows immediately that she is different and he needs to find out why. Lena is a Caster which, I guess, is a cool new YA novel way of saying Witch. When Lena turns 16 her powers will be fully manifest and her soul will either be claimed for the Light or the Dark. As Ethan and Lena start to fall in love with each other, her birthday rapidly approaches and she worries that she will turn Dark and destroy Ethan.
While I didn’t particularly enjoy this film, there was a lot to like about Beautiful Creatures. Alden Ehrenreich plays Ethan with humor and plenty of charm and he has real chemistry with Alice Englert’s Lena. I appreciated the fact that in this story, it is the boy who is more open and emotionally vulnerable and that it is the female character who is powerful and dangerous. Director Richard LaGravenese uses the Southern Gothic setting as it’s own character and makes this a very warm and beautifully shot movie, and the cast is full of excellent actors trying their best to breathe life into Beautiful Creatures.
Ultimately, I found it difficult to connect with this movie. I am in my 30s and it is almost impossible for me to not roll my eyes when I hear a 16 year old telling a 15 year old that he will love her forever. With a running time of over two hours they had plenty of time to tell a deep and detailed story, but there is not very much story to tell. They could have easily cut 30 minutes from this film to make it tighter because there are times when it drags along. I understand that Beautiful Creatures is a film that is not aimed at me, and that there are plenty of people who will love the melodrama and emotionally raw nature of this movie. There are some good things about Beautiful Creatures, but just not enough for me to recommend it.