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Book To Film: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl




Beautiful Creatures has been floating around the bookshelves and bestsellers list before I (as is usual) found myself jumping on the last bandwagon. It does take a while to sway me to the currently popular.

When the film adaptation hit the theaters, my curiosity got piqued. Seeing the trailer and recognizing half the cast (no kidding!) was the last push that propelled me to finally check it out.

This is the first of the Caster Chronicles series, spanning four books, and set in a small place in South Carolina. Lena is the new girl in town while Ethan cannot wait to escape the place. Inevitably, they gravitated to each other. As Ethan puzzles out the dreams of a girl haunting him, Lena struggles to hide her ever growing power, a curse that's been in her family for generations.

The South, which seemed a favorite haven of the paranormal, continually draws me in with its sinister history and old worldliness (beginning with Anne Rice). Take an abandoned mansion, let a mysterious girl driving a hearse appear, shake a sleepy town, throw in a dash of Charles Bukowski poetry, unravel secret dark powers and, like that, I'm in.
The story isn't something I haven't read before, true, but it has its shining moments here and there. Garcia & Stohl's descriptions of Greenbrier and Ravenwood stood out to me most. And especially the sudden flaring memories of the past with Genevieve and Ethan's desperate dreams. It is as if I stood there with them.

When scenes shift to the school or any place in town, it sort of becomes like any other paranormal fantasy book. I do love the quirky interiors of the mansion though and thought it oddly amazing.


Lena is a bit of a freak here and a struggle to warm up to with all her controlled angst and unknown power (which was a surprise since I usually like my heroines being freaks). I got the case of liking Ethan more than Lena. The unsociable Macon is right up there with him as well. I even got a little soft spot for Link just for being hilarious.

I'd say it was a typical young adult fantasy and not so typical at the same time. For a moment, it almost became a fantastical family drama. I did enjoy being put on a suspense and immersed to the deeper interconnection of characters and their own powers. Although it went dim to me in the end when that queer song played again. It felt like an unnecessary addendum by the authors but, hey, I could still look forward to reading the next book.


The film called out to me perhaps due to its auteur appeal. With Richard LaGravenese at its helm being writer and director, I have a feeling it would come off, not looking like a disjointed effort of consolidated styles but, having a distinct flavor. And it did.

Despite the mixed reviews, I'm a sucker for the visual and the unexpected. I was taken by the beauty of the rambling setting, the Southern woodsy moodiness (they filmed in Louisiana), costume and design. The stellar supporting actors like Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson upped my desire to watch (though Emma playing two characters and being somewhat a nutcase reminded me of Prof. Trelawney, that is until she goes dark). There exists a dose of humor and wit not present in the book which I think made it more entertaining. Less intense and more relatable.


Alice Englert as Lena was really cool. I mean, Lena was cool but she made her cooler. Alice has that mystery about her that just goes well with her role. While Ethan, I actually have a different image of him in my mind but Alden Ehrenreich spewing out funny anecdotes with perfect aplomb had me laughing my head off so I thought this film-Ethan suits him.


It also has a beautiful soundtrack, eerie and haunting songs that suited the brooding tone of the film. Alice Englert herself composed and sang one of the tracks. Even if LaGravenese bent the adaptation a little and provided a different angle of angst and twist, I thought it worked as a plain stand alone.

I find it a solid dark fantasy film tweaking our imagination, with great imagery and feel that for a moment we are reminded the burning intensity of young love.

Summary

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
Book Title: Beautiful Creatures
Author(s): Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal Romance
Published: 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: ♨♨♨ 1/2 (3 and a half - There's the usual teen angst but there's also deeper anguish. The landscape descriptions are like rough and edgy strokes on a painting.)

Film Title: Beautiful Creatures
Writer/Director: Richard LaGravenese
Release Date:
Cast: Alice Englert, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum, Eileen Atkins
Rating: ♨♨ (4 cups - Brooding and visually rich with cool soundtrack.)


{film stills: collider}

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