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dir-scr Richard LaGravenese
prd Broderick Johnson, Andrew A Kosove, Molly Smith, Erwin Stoff
with Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Emmy Rossum, Thomas Mann, Eileen Atkins, Margo Martindale, Zoey Deutch, Tiffany Boone, Kyle Gallner
release UK 13.Feb.13, US 14.Feb.13
13/US Alcon 2h04
Forbidden love: Ehrenreich and Englert
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Cynics will spot ideas cut and pasted from other franchises, most notably the Twilight-style mix of teen romance and supernatural family-based chaos. But this film has a sense of humour that makes it refreshing. And the sharp young actors actors are superb.
Ethan (Ehrenreich) is a 16-year-old desperate to leave rural South Carolina and see the world. After his mother's death, he and his reclusive father are cared for by Amma (Davis), a librarian who encourages him to read books banned by the town's hyper-conservative leaders. So he's intrigued by the arrival of Lena (Englert), niece of the town's designated villain, landowner Macon (Irons). By hanging out with her, Ethan's becoming a pariah himself. But that's nothing compared to the magical events approaching on Lena's 16th birthday.
Like True Blood, the story is set in the Deep South, where fundamental Christianity sits at odds with supernatural mumbo jumbo. It turns out that Lena's family are casters, each with a power that is designated either good or evil at age 16. Lena is terrified that she will go over to the dark side like her cousin Ridley (Rossum). Even worse, Lena's evil mum wanders from body to body, and has currently taken residence in Mrs Lincoln (Thompson), mother of Ethan's best pal (Mann).
All which gives the cast members delicious roles to play. Thompson merrily chomps scenery as both the uber-religious housewife and the mischief-making witch. Irons prowls snakily through his scenes. And the Rossum shamelessly seduces anyone with a pulse. Unlike Twilight, Ehrenreich and Englert are allowed to be relatively normal, lusty teens. Both are likeable and sexy, and hold promise for the franchise (there are four books in Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's series).
LaGravenese assembles this with considerable skill, never letting the effects engulf the story, although the spiralling dining-room scene comes dangerously close. Instead, he concentrates on the characters' internal lives, which sometimes feels a bit thin (why are some people simply designated "bad"?) but is augmented by deranged details along the way (the town is obsessed with re-enacting a Civil War battle as if it might end differently every year). And best of all is the story's literary references, which might drive young readers to seek out some truly great books for a change. Bukowski, anyone?
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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