This film is inspiring. It truly is. There's so much to like about it, I'm not even going to beat around the bush. Normally, with a review like this, I try to throw the smoke screen. This isn't a film I thought I'd like, so I'd pad the my intro with examples of other films like this I hate... "But then a film like Twilight comes along..."
Not this time.
I'm so in awe with my own satisfaction with this film, that I'm simply going to present the pros, and leave it at that - Story (congratulations Stephanie Meyer and Melissa Rosenberg), casting and conviction have really made this film something special.
First, let's look at the story. Twilight is the depiction of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a 17-year old girl transplanted from the brutal desert of Arizona to the snowy wilderness of Forks, Washington. She is an outsider, but quickly welcomed by all but her biology lab partner, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), who's inexplicable revulsion of her is like a magnet. She's immediately drawn to him.
When Edward comes out of nowhere and stops a runaway truck with his bare hands, saving Bella's life, she begins to dig a little deeper. She quickly learns more and more about the Cullen family, including his revulsion isn't what it appears to be. Edward is a vampire, and his desire to drink Bella's blood is so strong, he must pretend to hate her in order to stay away from her. But blood-lust turns to love, and the duo can't fight it any longer.
The film is interesting for many reasons, but as a colleague pointed out to me, one of the most fascinating is the character conflict. Bella loves Edward, but she's a good girl, and he's a vampire. Edward loves Bella, but being near her puts her life in jeopardy. It's ingrained in his soul that he should kill this new object of his love and drink her blood. It's who he is. What are they to do?
The story gets more complicated as "bad" vampires enter the picture. While the Cullens have decided to lead a life of "vegetarianism", eating only animals, other vampires don't suffer this moral conviction. One of these other vampires makes it his personal goal to stalk and kill Bella. The Cullens bond together, risking their secret life in Forks, and do what they have to do to protect her.
Wow. Its very basic. Its not complicated. Yet somehow, this film has struck a chord with me, and millions of teenage girls across the world. (I hope I'm not the only middle aged male who liked this.) the story is beautiful in its simplicity. Its rife with moral conviction and themes of good vs. evil. It's a throwback to films that can really have a positive influence on those who watch it. We need more films like Twilight.
Let's move on to casting. These actors nailed it. From Kristen Stewart's priceless portrayal of innocence to Billy Burke (Bella's father, Charlie)'s wonder depiction of overprotection marred by long term disconnect with his daughter, everyone is truly perfect for their part. The Cullen family played by Robert Pattinson, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Kellen Lutz and Peter Facinelli honestly look like vampires, and I mean that in a good way. There's just enough "off" about them to set them apart, yet it's not so over the top audiences find themselves rolling their eyes.
But it's the subtle things that make this cast so great. Stewart IS a teenage girl, yet she plays one on screen like I haven't seen in years. She manages to include such subtle nuances that many actors simply overlook. She is truly remarkable.
Now, the one thing I think that really draws me to this film is its conviction. Now I'm no prude. Let's get that clear. But I found the lack of physicality between the two leads in this film to be very refreshing. Instead of having sex, these writers make a first kiss into a climax of the film (no pun intended). And what makes that so special is, again, the acting. These two are so drawn to each other, yet awkward when they are together. It should remind viewers what it was like to be 17 and in love. How foreign was the uncharted territory of the opposite sex? Should I hold her hand? Should I lean in for a kiss? It's not all about getting the other in their underwear. And these actors remind us how special those firsts were, right down to the way they breathe. These two are something special.
I could go on... But I won't. I'll just say this. See this film. Remember what it was like to be young, and smile.
Josh Gloer, Movie Correspondent
You can find Josh's column One Harsh Critic, published every other Sunday. Tuesday, Friday... Who can tell at this point? at http://oneharshcritic.gather.com.
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