Well let’s just say that I finally know what it means to be gobsmacked.
is the anti-everything awful and insidious produced these last fifteen years to further the left’s malicious goal of insinuating themselves in that spot they find most comfortable: right between you and your children. Not a single one of the cultural, sexual, or political pitfalls so common in movies (and public schools) are found here. Even the way in which the film’s directed, edited and scored is anti-MTV.
So caught unaware was I by this subversive throwback to the traditional that the tension caused by girding for a liberal sucker punch resulted in my politically correct twitch knocking me to the floor when a couple of American Indian characters were introduced. How could it not? After all, the film’s set in small town America and produced by an industry that loathes small towns … and America. At any moment the inbred — the overbearing preacher — the bigot with a pick-up truck loaded with empties and rifles has to show up to hassle “them filthy Injuns,” right?
No. And that’s the least of the film’s pleasant surprises.
is set in Fork, Washington, a big screen small town you and I will finally recognize. A small town filled with likable folk from every walk of life and background. Asian and Mexican and vampires and black and white and Indian all living together in a place where race isn’t an issue because unlike the gated communities of Hollywood, out there in the real world we got over that nonsense decades ago.
Did you miss where I said vampires?
Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart
) is seventeen and lives with her mother and stepfather in Phoenix, Arizona. He’s a minor league ballplayer about to hit the circuit so Bella heads up to Washington state to spend some time with her stoic, somewhat estranged father, Charlie (Billy Burke
) who makes his living as the sheriff.
Starting school mid-semester in a cliched, lazy, stereotypical Hollywood movie can be difficult, but here the shy, somewhat moody Bella finds her new classmates eager to ease her transition, make friends, and show her around. Part of the tour introduces a pasty, quiet cliquish bunch — a few girls just this side of goth, a few guys skilled enough at brooding they should get paid by the hour. All of them live together as wards of the local doctor and call in sick those few days a year the sun comes out. Hmmm?
Bella’s immediately drawn to Chief Brooder, Edward (Robert Pattinson
), and after a freak accident reveals his superhuman speed and strength to her, she becomes determined to uncover his secret. What unfolds from here is a tender romance with a touch of the forbidden and a squeeze of danger. Manna from heaven for any teenage girl capable of emitting a squeal.
has its flaws, and they’re not small ones, but they pale in comparison to the film’s many, many virtues. Working from Stephenie Meyer’s wildly popular debut novel, director Catherine Hardwicke
is having none of the hyper-edited, over scored, slam-bam, pass the Dramamine, MTV style making gajillionaires of Ritalin investors. Hers is a deliberately paced story which unfolds on its own schedule with careful attention to character relationships and setting the environment of this foggy, rainy, green and beautiful wilderness.
And for all the vampires and superpowers and FX-ery, what we really have here is a good old-fashioned romance. So old-fashioned, in fact, that all the beauty and trembling expectation of a mere kiss bursts out of mothballs to make a roaring comeback.
Most welcome in the old-fashioned department is a cast of very likable characters. There’s no war between the divorced parents, and while the normal teenage awkwardness is apparent between father and daughter, so is the affection. It’s the same with Bella’s classmates. No bullies, no rich-bitch cheerleaders, just everyday American kids. Movies used to be made like this - with conflict arising from well-crafted situations as opposed to unsympathetic or deeply flawed characters. This is one of the many reasons older films are so much easier on the soul.
At 122-minutes, Twilight
has its slow moments, especially in the first half which is the weakest part of a film that gets much better as it goes along. At first, the slow dance courtship between Edward and Bella lacks believability, credible dialogue and chemistry. It’s only after his secrets are revealed and they choose to be together that both they and the film finally relax. This is especially beneficial to Pattinson’s performance. Just when the James Dean-lite act grows tiresome, his character’s dry humor and warmth is released, especially in a charming and memorable scene where Bella meets Edward’s vampire family.
The central theme is that of the healthy and moral restraint of one’s passion. Refusing to kill humans, Edward’s family chooses to live off the blood of animals. Edward describes this as a kind of vegetarianism where one eats only tofu. Sure, you survive but it’s an unsatisfying existence. Part of his attraction to Bella is the smell of her blood, which he describes as a heroin. For this reason they can’t have sex. Passion of any kind might turn into a killing frenzy. And so the result is a relationship built on the lasting, not the sexual. In bed, they talk. On dates, they dance. He respects, protects her, and loves her even though he can’t have what he wants most from her.
The special effects aren’t great, what little action there is could be better, but the score’s mature (especially for a teenage film) and you can’t help but assume the sequel will be improved now that the characters are established and a bigger budget’s inevitable.
For all its weaknesses, Twilight
redeems itself in the same way many a marginal golden age film did. Okay, the story could be better, but gosh darn it if you don’t like the characters, admire their better qualities, and want to see it all work out for them in the end.
is also a safe zone. Grab your kids and go the the movies. Keep in mind the PG-13 rating, but there’s not much horror and barely any violence. If they can handle that, what you have here is a movie that’s good for them. Just keep the Ritalin handly for when the de-programming kicks in.