Alden Ehrenreich is a sensitive soul who longs to leave his small South Carolina town. He likes to read and hopes to escape to university. Then along comes mysterious new girl Alice Englert, who is mocked and/or shunned by the bible-bashing locals because of rumours about her family’s extracurricular activities. But Ehrenreich is smitten, and eventually wears down the young girl’s snarky exterior. They can’t help but fall in love with one another. Unfortunately, her reclusive uncle (Jeremy Irons) forbids their relationship. You see, they aren’t human, but immortals with special powers, and with Englert’s impending 16th birthday, the time will come for her to be claimed by either the light or dark side. Or something like that, there’s other reasons for keeping them apart which are only gradually revealed. Meanwhile, religious zealous Emma Thompson is rallying the small-minded local Charlie Churchies to run Irons and his family out of town. But she isn’t quite what she seems. She seems a teeny bit possessed. Emmy Rossum has a high ol’ time as Englert’s vampy cousin come to visit for the happy occasion (She has already embraced the ‘dark side’), with Margo Martindale, Eileen Atkins, and Kyle Gallner as other relatives. Viola Davis plays the local librarian, who being black, is naturally a voodoo priestess and seer. Yep. That’s not racially insensitive casting of an Oscar winner at all. She also serves as Ehrenreich’s housekeeper on the side! (Geez, why not just call her Prissy while you’re at it?).
Yet another film based on a Young Adult series of novels, this 2013 film from miscast writer/director Richard LaGravenese (director of “Freedom Writers”, screenwriter of “The Fisher King”, “The Horse Whisperer”, and “The Bridges of Madison County”) is certainly on the same level of quality as “Twilight”. That’s not a compliment, the film is absolutely terrible. Southern Gothic for Twihards, all this one has going for it is Jeremy Irons enjoying himself, and a hot as hell Emmy Rossum playing the only character worth a damn. The scenery would be absolutely freaking amazing if DOP Philippe Rousselot (“Sherlock Holmes”) weren’t ordered to follow the Summit Entertainment mantra of ‘All Blue, All of the Time’. It’s set in the South, but it’s blue all the time, and no one has a tan. What is it, the South of London? Gimme a break. It has been really poorly shot, it’s way too dark, and the filmmaker resorts to thunder and lightning in lieu of real Southern Gothic atmosphere and flavour. I wasn’t buying it. Where is the sweltering Southern Gothic heat for cryin’ out loud? I kept waiting for Tyrion Lannister to walk on and proclaim ‘Winter is Coming’. On the rare occasion Rousselot is afforded the right to film more than one colour and a little bit of light, the scenery is excellent. The rest? Murky as hell, and about the only thing convincingly Southern Gothic about the whole film is an eye-patch sporting Pruitt Taylor Vince playing a high school teacher.
There’s one particularly head-scratching moment early on when the prissy Christian teen bitch complains that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a banned book and she shouldn’t, as a Christian, have to read it. Her best friend is African-American. What, outside of the African-American issues in the film could possibly offend a small-minded bible-basher? It surely isn’t just because it features a rape, no it’s because it involves rape and racial issues presumably, and as such it’s a stupid, stupid mistake by someone either at the screenwriting level, the casting level, or the novel itself. Oopsy.
Lead actor Alden Ehrenreich is horrendously miscast as the supposed Robert Pattinson of this potential franchise. He comes across like a creepy pervert, when he’s supposed to be oh so deep and thoughtful. How do I know that? Because we’re given obvious short-hand- he reads Kurt Vonnegut. Oooh, he’s a thinker! No, he’s the kinda guy you cast on a teen TV drama as a date rapist or that creepy town outcast who spends most of his days in his basement torturing rats or something (When he’s not getting slammed into lockers at school, that is). Aussie-born actress Alice Englert isn’t any better as this franchise’s Kristen Stewart by way of “Juno”. She’s introduced with such a sarcastic “Juno” cliché that she immediately grates. Her dialogue sounds way too inorganic, and the actress isn’t good enough to get around it. In fact, as horribly mannered as Ehrenreich is, Englert (daughter of Jane Campion, apparently) is amateurish. Worse still, after about 10 minutes, the snark goes AWOL and Englert just becomes boring and generic. What the hell? They are seriously annoying lead actors and terribly tedious characters. And the whole film revolves around them, which causes many, many problems. For instance, even if an immortal would fall for a mortal, it wouldn’t be this dorky, creepy Gomer Pyle mortal, that’s for sure.
More interesting are Jeremy Irons and the highly underrated Emmy Rossum. Neither gives a convincing performance, mind you. I mean, would you believe Jeremy Irons as a Southerner? Of course not, but what was Herbert Marshall doing in “The Little Foxes”? Good work, that’s what he was doing, never mind the accent. Irons doesn’t exactly do good work (he’s pretty close to it, though), but he’s the only one here who knows this is shit, and decides to have some fun with it whilst not disgracing himself. BTW, what’s with those insanely gaudy interiors to Irons’ house? They’re incredibly out of place with everything else. Even with shorter hair, Emmy Rossum is positively ravishing, and although she’s been given an impossible assignment with her ridiculous role, she definitely has vampish sex appeal in spades here.
But that’s it for niceties, I’m afraid. Emma Thompson is a wonderful actress, everyone knows that. However, she loses an immense amount of credibility here, completely ridiculous and miscast. How bad and ridiculously hammy is she? At one point, she remarks ‘Well slap my ass and call me Sally’. Wow. By far her worst performance to date, she’s so embarrassingly bad that at first I didn’t realise that her character was inhabited someone (or something) else, because Thompson’s performance is ridiculous from the outset, continues to be ridiculous, and ends ridiculously. What in the hell was she thinking? Viola Davis, meanwhile looks like she thinks she’s well above this. She’s right, but she also agreed to make the movie, so what’s your friggin’ problem, woman? Don’t sign on to a piece of crap in the first place, OK? Meanwhile, if you can’t see how this ‘curse’ resolves itself, then I hope you enjoyed your first movie. Might I suggest something not from a Young Adult book series for your next viewing?
This film is so very, very stupid. It seems like it’s not meant to be funny, but it’s incredibly laughable. It’s also incredibly plagiaristic of “Twilight” (despite having the opposite view of religion to that Mormon text masquerading as YA Fiction), and features some truly hoary old concepts. It’s your standard conservative town who shuns the outsider family who are believed to be some kind of pagans/ Satanists/Wiccans/Mormons, etc. This time they’re immortals. Or something. I’ve seen the film and I still don’t believe it was ever quite explained exactly what Irons and his family were. It’s really old stuff, really badly done, and with a typical “Twilight” lovers-who-can-never-be thing tacked on for monetary purposes. Emma Thompson should be truly ashamed of herself here. Not as bad as “The Host”, but still really bad. Read “To Kill a Mockingbird” instead. Hell, the movie’s pretty good too.