As its teenage characters woo each other with Charles Bukowski quotes and Kurt Vonnegut references, Beautiful Creatures
fancies itself an impassioned ode to overcoming alienation. But the film—despite any mileage it gains thanks to its eerie Southern gothic setting—hews closer to Twilight
than to any other literary forebear. Lena (Alice Englert) is a spookily enigmatic newcomer to the small town of Gatlin, S.C. “She looks like death eatin’ a cracker,” sneers one of her prim, Bible-thumping classmates. But the Vonnegut-worshipping Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich, whose square jaw and frequently unbuttoned shirt will probably recruit him fans) quickly cozies up to Lena, even when she reveals she’s a witch under the grasp of an age-old curse. Lena swears her powers are becoming darker, but as the film plods on, all that supports such a conviction is that she wears thicker eyeliner and accidentally produces more lightning bolts. Aside from scenery-chewing turns by Jeremy Irons as a morally ambiguous dandy and Emma Thompson as an unequivocally evil witch, the cast is wide-eyed and wooden. Beautiful Creatures
attempts to make itself a supernatural Gone With the Wind
, complete with gauzy Civil War flashbacks and a truth-telling maid (Viola Davis plays a telepathic housekeeper), but a modern-day Tara this ain’t.