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dir Catherine Hardwicke
scr Melissa Rosenberg
with Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Anna Kendrick, Peter Facinelli, Cam Gigandet, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Michael Welch, Justin Chon, Christian Serratos, Gil Birmingham, Rachelle Lefevre
release US 21.Nov.08, UK 19.Dec.08
08/US Summit 2h02
Burning desire: Stewart and Pattinson
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Targeted squarely at teen girls, this deeply romantic thriller delivers exactly what its audience wants. But everyone else will find plenty to enjoy as well in this thoughtful, well-made thriller.
Bella (Stewart) is a 17-year-old who moves from sunny Arizona to rainy Washington to live with her police-chief dad (Burke). She quietly begins to make friends, and is intrigued by a family of creepy outsiders adopted by the town doctor (Facinelli). The specific target of her affection is the emo dreamboat Edward (Pattinson), who seems initially repulsed by Bella. But it eventually becomes clear that he's trying to resist the desire she sparks in his heightened vampire senses.
Director Hardwicke builds a densely coloured atmosphere, but keeps the story centred on the characters. Although there are scary moments, the film remains grounded in the high school milieu. This includes segregating the characters into Bella's friends, Edward's family, the local Native Americans and a rival "meat-eating" vampire clan. The push and pull between these groups give the film a texture that holds our interest even when things get a bit swoony.
Meanwhile, the young cast members deliver strong performances--another Hardwicke trademark. Stewart is terrific balancing big emotions with dry comedy. The snappy, witty acting helps make up for the gloomy atmosphere, and also undercuts the epic-romance overtones ("I don't have the strength to stay away from you any more." "Then don't!"). That said, it is genuinely emotional ("You don't know how long I've waited for you!"), and there's a strong sense both that Edward can finally be himself and that Bella is thrilled to find someone who, ahem, yearns for her blood but won't take that bite. But that first kiss is sure hot.
Overall, the film is a little too cool for its own good, cheesy effects work notwithstanding. In the final act, an undercooked thriller plot threatens to take over, but is held in check to offer a more resonant kick that bodes well for the next chapter. Yes, this is based on the first in Stephenie Meyer's mega-selling four-book series, and sequels are already in the works. So if the characters feel unusually detailed for a teen movie, perhaps that's a hint of what's still to come.
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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