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Twilight of the Goths

The new vampire romance is a teen chick flick that doesn’t succumb to the usual formula


 

Twilight of the goths

Most of the people flocking to Twilight this weekend won’t be seeing it through my eyes—the jaded, undead eyes of a fiftysomething male. The overwhelming majority of them will be young teenage girls. They belong to a captive audience of readers around the world who have bought 17 million copies of Stephenie Meyer’s novels, and who are now hopelessly smitten with Robert Pattinson, the smouldering hunk who plays Edward, its pale, rouge-lipped vampire hero.

I hadn’t read the book, so I came to the movie cold, as a viewer light years removed from its target audience. But although I found the film too long, too slow and too soft, I enjoyed myself. Twilight is not just a cult phenomenon; it’s a pretty good movie in its own right, even if it may not go far beyond its target audience. Girls are going to love it way more than anyone else, and the boys who get dragged along—or check it out expecting action-packed fantasy—may be bored senseless. But for such a conventional movie, Twilight is rather unusual. A rare example of a teenage chick flick that doesn’t surrender to the usual formula, it’s an unconditional romance from an unapologetically female viewpoint.

Twilight avoids or inverts all the tropes of a classic vampire movie. Its vampires are a close-knit family possessed by wholesome values. They’re a clan of “vegetarian” blood-suckers, who’ve vowed to feast only on animals, not people. And they don’t sleep in coffins. Edward and his undead dynasty occupies an architectural dream house, a mountaintop aerie that’s flooded with light and filled with art. Sunlight doesn’t make these chalk-faced carnivores recoil; it makes their skin shine like diamonds, like love.

Anyone looking for violent horror or lurid sex will be deeply disappointed. In a world where teenage girls are expected to be nonchalant about casual sex, Twilight allows them to submit to romance so old fashioned it dares to be corny. At each turn it offers a choice: giggle or swoon.

The action unfolds in a small town, amid the rain and fog of the Pacific Northwest, where a young, quite ordinary high-school student named Bella (Kristen Stewart) comes from Arizona to live with her dad, the local sheriff, while her mother takes a trip with her new beau. Bella, the new girl in school, is courted by a handsome, brooding, chivalrous freak named Edward (Pattinson). From their first exchange of glances, they are Romeo and Juliet divided by mortality. Edward comports himself like the deadpan ghost of James Dean. He’s seething with carnal desire, but because he’s a walking weapon (if his kiss sinks too deep it will be lethal), he’s forced to be a chaste model of sexual restraint. He’s every girl’s fantasy: sacrificing his lust for the higher pursuit of romantic love. He starts out as a stalker with style. He loves to watch Bella sleep. And once they’re finally an item, he’s happy just to hang out and talk, or hold her in his adoring gaze—or wrap her in his arms and fly to the upper branches of an old-growth forest to share the rhapsodic view.

Twilight is directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who has created a world that’s the polar opposite of the one she depicted in Thirteen, her sensational feature debut. That film was a raging realist drama about delinquent adolescent girls discovering sex, drugs and petty crime. This one offers a Harlequin-lite fantasy that any mother would approve. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Despite the flat-out romantic tone, Hardwicke leavens the narrative with a gentle sense of humour. For a movie about the undead, it’s incredibly un-noir. The supernatural action scenes, meanwhile, are elegant, spare and relatively bloodless. The plot is an exercise in delayed gratification, and it feeds on slow-drip dramatic irony: we know Edward is a vampire from the moment he appears, and we wait and wait for Bella to catch on, which takes about half the movie. Getting to their first exploratory kiss takes almost as long. Much of the film plays as giggly comedy, until the romance finally sinks its teeth. Even then, its bite wears braces.

Without descending into camp, Pattinson undercuts earnest intensity with a deft, self-conscious wit. And in contrast to the mythic scale of his character, Kristen Stewart plays Bella with plainspoken emotional realism. Pattinson may be the reason all the girls are flocking to see the movie, but they’re watching him through her eyes, and she carries the film with her performance. As Bella’s hapless father, a devoted dad who has no clue how to connect to his daughter, Billy Burke quietly steals one scene after another, making us smile each time with his deadpan minimalism. As for Edward’s vampire family, headed by Dr. Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli), they all look wonderfully cute, which seems to be their mission in life.

We get just a taste of Edward’s intriguing foster family, including the siren-like Rosalie, who’s played by Nikki Reed, the writer and star of Hardwicke’s Thirteen. There are four Twilight novels, and this movie is setting up a franchise, so I assume we’re going to see a lot more of them. The villain, a grungy man-eating vampire played by Cam Gigandet, is uninspired. And the Benneton-like ethnic rainbow of Bella’s amiable classmates are stock characters who don’t have much to work with. But, as I said, this doesn’t feel like a complete movie so much as a franchise opener. Whether it will play beyond its ardent base and mature into a distaff answer to Harry Potter remains to be seen. And because its leading man is not an actual vampire, Edward, who never ages, will have a hard time remaining 17 while Bella and the others grow old.


 

Twilight of the Goths

  1. Thanks for writing this. As a mom to one of the 50 million 14 year old’s who have already watched this movie twice I’ll make sure my daughter realizes that even another non-twiighter thought it wasn’t too bad. Some of the lingo that lingers in the halls as the girls (and guys) wait desperately for the beginning of the movie might explain some of the “Edwardmania”. I especially love how you went in not having read the book. You must have enjoyed the audience prior to the movie. Did you notice that no one went to pee?

    I went to the movie for one reason. To watch my daughter and her friends watch the movie. I had my orders of course, but I pre-paid the tickets for them. It was tearful and one of those “thank goodness I’m here” moments. I encourage mom’s or dad’s everywhere to allow your child to read this to you while you drive or knit……..but do something while you listen! It’s been a treat to use this book as an opportunity to be with Olivia in her excitement. It’s all good. And now they are talking about the next movie….New Moon. Olivia already has details on it. And don’t underestimate the boys! Most of the teen boys I know are reading this book to be able to talk to the girls they want to know. It’s the latest pick up line, “Hey have you read Twilight”……………..”awww. He’s so cute.” and the guys are talking! LIke giving a cell phone to a teen!

  2. I’m surprised that your review was not only so positive but also extremely intellectual. Considering this is basically a teen movie and a fluff piece, your eloquent, poetic, and insightful analysis of the film makes it seem like it’s an Academy award-worthy period drama. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but perhaps it’s a tad misleading. A friend of mine told me today that the film bites and RottenTomatoes.com agrees. If this is true, it’s very disappointing. After all the hype, I was hoping this was a quality film and that finally teen girls were getting excited over something more than just cute boys. Maybe that’s asking too much. Perhaps your review might shed new light on the story, and those who didn’t like it will be able to see the depth in it. I have yet to see the film myself so I can’t say either way.

    I would also like to commend Valerie on not only going to the movie with her daughter, but also on taking the time to read the book with her. I am extremely impressed that you get involved in her interests in such a loving and caring way. I hope there are more moms like you out there.

  3. I apologize beforehand if the author was forced to write this article as a dare/joke, or misfortune befell him in that any deviation from a strictly positive and loving review of Twilight would result in the loss of his job.

    You have got to be joking me. Usually I don’t mind intellectually-deprecating, commercialized crap like Twilight which devalues literature, because unfortunately nothing else will appeal to the vegetated minds of the sheep that make up society, but your article is just out right ridiculous to the point of where one knows not whether to laugh at its fantastically fictitious ‘analysis’ or to cry at the death of one’s former faith in humanity.

    “A rare example of a teenage chick flick that doesn’t surrender to the usual formula, it’s an unconditional romance from an unapologetically female viewpoint.”
    Good sir you must have either never seen a chick flick in your experient fifty years of life, or have been bribed with copious amounts of money to deface the legitimacy of MaClean’s. I must say Twilight makes my calculus textbook appear an embodiment of endless creativity, empathy and literary flair. In fact, I will daringly challenge your sentiments right now in that my calculus textbook is far less formulaic than Twilight. You see, sometimes, you will need to rearrange the variables a bit, a task that requires some moderate amount of intelligence, which unfortunately Mrs. Meyers and all those merry Twilight fans lack.

    Walking the earth for a mere seventeen years have taught my young cynical self that the masses, with their sizable power in sheer numbers, have and always will remain at a mental capability that offends and frustrates the average intellectual with their impeccably stupid decisions. A potent example of this would be, oh I don’t know, making Twilight a monstrous bestseller, while Crime and Punishment sells a mere 30 copies a year. To my school’s English department. Now, before you label me a pompous ***hole, I understand perfectly the quintessential necessity for the sheep behavior of masses in order to vouch for the smooth functioning of society, and therefore, my perfect understanding of the consumerist and materialistic pop culture that conditions poor young souls into worshiping the Jonas Brothers and Twilight. However, it offends the core of my soul that one would call the blatantly misogynistic and plastic varnished ‘romance’, using the term loosely of course, “from an unapologetically female viewpoint.” If I may offer my humble rectification of the phrase into a more plausible: “from an unapologetically intellectually retarded preteen girl’s point of view, with insufficient IQ to realize the indignity of enjoying the misogynistic and dismissive treatment of women by Twilight.” Now, I can write an extensive essay on how the Mormon lady fails epically at providing a positive and empowering role model for teen girls, but I have much worthier work to do.

    So please, I entreat you, do not judge female kind based on those who enjoy Twilight, and then spread your misguided opinion on the net. It is much like judging Rock n’ Roll based on Fall Out Boys, politicians on George W. Bush, or the liability of MaClean’s reviews based on one amusingly outrageous article. They are the retarded cousins that we are not proud to be blood relatives of, please excuse my politically incorrectness.

    • I think it was extremely romantic movie. I am 28, married woman. And still, they managed to show all the romance so well.. I felt almost the same when I was in love for the first time :). And I feel sorry for the girls, who never felt this feeling. It may be that the movie is for girly audience more, because men usually don’t get such things, but who cares. I am happy I saw the movie, it brought loads of good memories to me…..

  4. Dear Mr/Ms “LOL”,

    Now, you may not realize this, but this movie/book truly is a romance. Of course I wouldn’t except you to know this because it is obvious that you have not read the books. And I have to agree with this author that it is not your everyday chickflick, what was the last chickflick you saw that someones head got ripped off and then burned to the stake?
    I also think that you have no right to say that “Mrs. Meyers and all those merry Twilight fans” lack intelligence because YOU, my good sir, do NOT know them. This is what we call stereotyping.
    So, the next time you decide to criticize a pretty accurate article and label a whole bunch of people you do not know, you might want to read the book all those “merry Twilight fans” fell in love with. Then maybe you will understand the movie, if you even saw it before you posted your comment.

  5. Oh my! I do believe I have just personally conversed on the internet with one such mentally challenged fangirl myself!! Thank you Ms. Victoria, for I have truly learnt much from our brief acquaintance. It is a rare experience providing me with further evidence of the intellectual lackings of these fans, which I had proudly hypothesized in my lengthy comment.

    Now having carefully diagnosed your comment -which, believe me didn’t take long- one would have to come to the conclusion of the absolute absence of any trace of logical reasoning. Ms. Victoria seems convinced in the most resolute manner of the ridiculous notion that one would take the time to compose a verbose comment directly accusing Twilight of possessing negative literary value, promoting misogyny and being the stale and stinky stool of the materialistic consumerist market that plagues our society, when one has not been fully informed about this rising epidemic. Now, there are two conceivable explanations for this non-sequitor. First, Ms. Victoria did not read the entirety of my comment, and therefore is thoroughly hypocritical when falsely accusing me of attacking with an ignorant eye. Or, there’s the second, and perhaps more plausible explanation that Ms. Victoria lacked the physical means to process my comment and obtain an accurate understanding of it.

    To refute your one and only defense of Twilight Ms. Victoria, I have read the book. It was possibly the worst book I’ve ever laid my eyes on in my entire life in both content and form. Cheesier than a Rambo movie, with lines that would evoke vomit from some, and hysterical laughter from those among us who are the sturdier soldiers, with stomachs of steel that can withstand the abuse of such rotten and ill-smelling cheese!

    And who can forget the avant-garde style of Mrs. Meyers who has chosen to publish an entire book written in the most juvenile literary language that is often the work seen in essays of your average seventh grader? With phrases like “his scintillating arms” and “iridescent palms” one begins to wonder if Ms. Meyers is in fact describing the rainbow-reflecting qualities of a waterfly’s wings. If I may offer my humble advice to Ms. Meyers, that incorrect use of a thesaurus to make oneself appear moderately intelligent backfires tragically when one lacks the basic mental capabilities to comprehend the words one is substituting for ‘shiny’.

    Having violence in a film (which is a given in today’s movie industry) does naught to add intellectual and innovative value to a formulaic chick flick with the most generic characters and plot designed to satisfy the shallow and superficial desires of pinheaded teen girls’ fantasy of their vampire knight in shining armour, no pun intended.

    • Somebody likes the sound of their own voice. LOL, Maybe you should concentrate a little more on your grammar and on the fundamental basis of your argument than on trying to fit as many words into a comment as possible in a vain attempt to try and show your 'intelligence' through long words and unsustainable points. Youa re clearly an angry little 17 year old, you are lonely with few friends, which is why you feel the need to vent to strangers on the internet. God bless you, even though you are clearly under average height, overweight and most definitely facially challenged in some way. I suspect that if i had no friends in the real world and a serious vitamin D deficiency from sitting in front of a computer every waking hour like you, then I would feel a little angst ridden too. True intelligence my small friend, comes with a thing called humility and understanding. Without these (and it really doesn't matter how many dictionaries you've swallowed) you're just an irritating little twit with a big mouth. Which is why you have no friends.

      No one likes to be judged do they?

  6. One has to take care not to fall into the classic “apples to oranges” comparison when commenting on this film or the book on which it is based. Both are neither film nor novel. Both are a product for specialized consumption. Both are a very clever manipulation of the vampire genre in order to satisfy a niche segment of society, the adolescent female with spending money. Mary Jane, or whoever, can see a movie about passion, experience a truly dangerous boyfriend, and remain both physically and morally unharmed. Mom and Dad are pleased. Meyer is the winner. Elegant criticism here is superfluous. Better time can be spent on how the trick was done.

  7. Well, I would not say that I am a “fangirl” as you have called me, but I would say that I have enjoied a good book and have an opinion. I don’t understand how you can tell so much about me through three paragraphs, you have no idea who I am, even if you have tricked yourself into thinking so. All you know is that I have read a book that I have liked and am ready to defend myself against lies you say.

    I think that the Twilight author was using a lesser vocabualry because she was focusing her audience,(most of which are still in elementary school, and early high school) and of couse, it does not include you. Ms. Meyers cannot lack intellegnce, she has sold over 17 million copies of her books. She accomplished this by being lacking intellegnce?

    How can you possibly say that I am a “mentally challenged fangirl”? You have no right to say that, and of course I’m going to take great offense to that. Why do people that have read Twilight have to “lack intelligence”, you said yourself that you have read it, are you prepared to put yourself under that category? I am actually quite surprised, if I don’t like a book, I usually don’t continue reading it.

    I was only saying that the norm for a chickflick does not usually have violence such as this. Therefore, it is different from most chickflicks. I does not sound like you enjoy these sort of films, but I have been wrong before, so I must ask. Do you watch chickflicks and have many movies to complare them too?

  8. It is with reluctance I write this reply to Ms. Victoria’s comment as there is neither pride nor accomplishment in an ill-matched debate when one side obviously lacks the mental maturity to fully comprehend my assertions. Much is to be said about one’s three paragraphs. Writing style and perceptibility of content and ideas gives clear indication to literary competency and consequently mental maturity of the individual. Judging from Ms. Victoria’s comments, I have realized with much shame that I have been attempting to vindicate the fact of Twilight being the cancerous cells of modern literary culture, to a youngling of 12 or under, with ideas perhaps beyond the comprehension of your average kid. It does, however, explain much of the blatant non-sequitors of Ms. Victoria’s refutations. So, in an attempt to resolve this seemingly endless thread of nonsensical ‘debate’, I will try and write in a manner Ms. Victoria can understand.

    First, “mentally retarded fangirls” was used as figurative language to make my comment more acerbic, but since I do not wish to bully a 10 years old girl, I’d like Ms. Victoria to know, that was intended for those past the age of 12, who can still admit shamelessly to enjoying Twilight. Perhaps at your tender age of 10, popularity seems to be the ultimate indication of what is good. But with age and intellectual growth, you’ll come to realize the stupidity of the general public, victim to our consumerist culture.

    Twilight should not be a children’s book as it promotes misogyny and lacks any positive morals. It is written for a teenage fanbase with the literary intelligence and mental maturity of a child.

    It is not Mrs. Meyer’s use of simplistic words, but rather her failed attempt at using words that are beyond her level of comprehension, thus making a fool out of herself, and the book the laughing stock among my friends. I made references to the stupidity of those who truly believe Twilight is a great book. There are many people who read it just to laugh at how ridiculously puerile it is. In other words, the book is so bad it’s funny, and we love to crack jokes at it, that’s all.

    Well, much more stimulating tasks await me other than the explanation of the fundamentals of film analysis to a child. So farewell my dear Victoria :), I apologize for my acrid comments, they were not intended towards someone as young as you.

  9. No problem, and just to let you know, I’m actually not 10 years old. But nice try.

  10. LOL, are you crazy? You may have this twisted view that you are right and everyone else in the world is wrong, but keep it to yourself. Don’t insult millions of girls across the continent who read a book they enjoyed and then went to go see the movie. And then, insulting their mothers? Oh please.
    Twilight is a book reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet and so appeals to girls who long for their own Edward, because he is the depiction of the “perfect guy”. So, please, PLEASE, don’t trash something that has enchanted millions. Just because you aren’t one of them doesn’t give you the power to trash.

  11. @LOL

    YAWN.

  12. I never read the book and it’s unlikely I’ll ever see the film, but I thoroughly enjoyed the review.

  13. twighlight promotes mysogyny,

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