In Gatlin, South Carolina, a small southern town, a new girl, Lena (Alice Englert), arrives at the local high school. She’s immediately greeted by the girls in her class with accusations of witchcraft and Satan worship, based on her family’s reputation. In spite of some bizarre occurrences that coincide with her arrival, Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), a classmate of hers, is smitten by her. He doggedly pursues her affection in spite of her reluctance.
Once she finally begins to open up to him, he quickly discovers that the rumors surrounding her family are true. They’re witches, or as they prefer to be called, “Casters”. Worse still, she’s approaching her sixteenth birthday, a time when Casters will turn either into wielders of dark magic or light magic, in an event known as “The Claiming”. Rival factions within her family are trying to push her towards one side or another, and her affection for Ethan becomes one of the many cards in play.
So as Lena approaches her claiming, she’s forced to stave off the dark forces within her family and straighten out her feelings for Ethan.
It’s gobbledy goop with a tween romantic bent. The romance between the two teens is forbidden, yet destined. The impending “Claiming” could bring about a new era. Lena is the chosen one allowed to read the protected tome of spells. It’s all overwrought nonsense with two teens making puppy eyes at each other at the core of it. I honestly have no idea how this fim is batting .500 on Rotten Tomatoes.
I could tell “Beautiful Creatures” was an adaptation of a novel, because it felt as if they were trying to cram a thousand details in via the exposition. Where a novel can take its time with such details, a lot of times a film will come across like someone hurriedly yelling things to get at the store at you as you pull out of the driveway. Like “Beautiful Creatures” does. Its dialogue is absolutely stuffed to the gills with the mythos of the “Beautiful Creatures” world. The characters’ history. The rules for “Casters”. Explaining the “Claiming”. Explaining the “Curse”. On and on and on. It barely left any time for the characters to actually do things or say things for themselves, they were all so busy freaking explaining things.
The supporting cast here is worthy of far better things. Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson and even Emmy Rossum all add a touch of gravitas that the film surely doesn’t deserve. It was tough to watch them all do their best, and see the material weigh them down like an albatross. They’re also betrayed by the lack of charisma in the two leads. Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert were both flat-out dull, and he frequently strayed into “bad”. I can’t imagine either of them carrying a project on their own (based on what I saw here) and I openly wondered how they landed these parts. Perhaps the casting director spent all their time on obtaining the services of the stars in support.
I’m not in the frame of mind to cut this film much slack. It was a silly, stilted, supernatural soap opera. No one over the age of 12 need apply.