Young love, so sorely tested by vampirism and zombification in “Twilight” and “Warm Bodies,” finds the road to romance sunnier in “Beautiful Creatures,” in which two teens pair up despite the fact that one of them is a witch in training.
The one-liners drawl from the lips of the South Carolina characters like Spanish moss dripping from the oaks in a script so witty it attracted Oscar winners Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons and Oscar nominee Viola Davis in supporting roles.
Alden Ehrenreich gives a breakout performance as Ethan, a dreamer and square peg in the round hole of rural Gatlin, S.C. A high school junior who longs for the day he can escape his provincial life, he’s an incessant reader — Henry Miller, Ayn Rand, William Burroughs — and that manifests itself in his narration and his take on his town. (“They keep reenacting the Civil War like it’s gonna come out different.”)
He’s jilted by the pretty, but less bookish and more fundamentalist Emily (Zoey Deutch), but open to the charms of the “new girl,” a raven-haired vision who appeared to him in dreams. Lena (Alice Englert) is a 15-year-old Southern Gothic Goth Girl — dark and mysterious, an aspiring poetess with numbers tattooed on one hand and a sullen sarcasm that is catnip to Ethan.
He ignores the Mean Girl-mongering of Emily, the fear-mongering of the local fundamentalist crusader (Thompson) and the counsel of family friend Amma (Davis). Lena resists the warnings of her patrician uncle (Irons), a recluse who presides over an estate that once encompassed the whole town.
Of course they’re fated to be together. And the fact that she’s a witch, and that only he’s supposed to know? That just doubles down on the doomed love/ forbidden love thing.