Screenwriters: Melissa Rosenberg
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Peter Facinelli
Running Time: 122 mins
High school flicks are awash with teenagers giving each other love bites, but throw in a few vampires and suddenly it's a money-spinning novelty. Twilight is the first in what'll doubtless be a movie franchise adapted from the popular books by Stephenie Meyer. Advance buzz has already turned British actor Robert Pattinson (from the class of Harry Potter) into a heartthrob with his undead twist on the James Dean rebel routine. His coif demands more 'Hairspray' than Tracy Turnblad and the film is almost as camp, except there's a lot less dancing, singing and general smileyness.
In fact, the film is moodier than a teenage pothead. Our heroine Bella Swan is played by the enigmatic Kristen Stewart who chooses to 'suffer in silence' when she is forced to move to the woodsy Pacific Northwest to live with her dad (Billy Burke). Fitting in at a new school is just as awkward and then she meets Edward Cullen (Pattinson), a handsome loner who appears to be a kindred spirit. At first, he doesn't seem simpatico, even going as far as to hold his nose to block out her smell! A lot of push-and-pulling ensues, but most notably when Edward yanks Bella out of the path of a speeding car. His incredible speed and strength set alarm bells ringing.
Of course nothing makes a young girl's pulse quicken like a boy who spells danger. The suspense is too long drawn-out, but when Bella finally realises that Edward is a vampire, she is overcome with love and lustiness. Edward clearly feels the same, but resists her advances for fear of 'losing control' and literally sucking the life out of her. The sexual connotations are strong, but not overpowering. Director Catherine Hardwicke (who painted a portrait of teens gone wild in Thirteen) is, on this occasion, more concerned with the giddy romance of repressed love. Think of this as a full-blooded Jane Austen yarn in jeans. There are moments of overwrought melodrama that will make older viewers want to, like, barf… but on the other hand, it's that tendency to magnify grief that defines teen spirit.
Hardwicke makes no apologies for her total indulgence in lots of hormone-induced sulking. She even celebrates the suffering, enhancing the gloom with lots of striking gothic visuals, framing the kids against an eerily beautiful coastal landscape and having them fight their animal urges in a dark fairytale woodland. For legions of disaffected, sweaty adolescents, it's the equivalent of listening to Coldplay in a bedroom painted black. (Note to cynical grownups: 'Keep out!') Towards the end though, it comes as a shock when this melodrama suddenly turns into a frenetic chase thriller. While Edward has vowed never to feed off human blood, there are other vampires who'd like to do more than nibble on Bella's earlobes. So together they make for the hills, but it all seems like a rather desperate attempt to end the story with a bang as opposed to a petulant whimper (which would be more fitting). It's not the stunts and derring-do which excite the senses as much as the quiet chemistry between Stewart and Pattinson; that is guaranteed to get your blood up…
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