Veteran writer-director Richard LaGravenese (“Water for Elephants,” “Freedom Writers”) boiled the Kami Garcia-Margaret Stohl novel down to characters, sharp dialogue and a palpable sense of place.
The story arc has few surprises — the odd flipped expectation or character in disguise. We can guess the climax in the opening scenes, and figure out the role the mysterious Amma and bombshell witch-coven cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum), tarted up like a lingerie model, will play in that finale.
But there’s something so delicious when Brits such as Thompson and Irons sink their fangs — sorry — into Deep South dialect. Thompson devours scenery, supporting players and dialogue with every “Bless your heart, shooo-gah” in the script, and Irons curls his non-existent moustache over every syrupy zinger.
The film bogs down in the usual attempts at reinventing witchcraft — “We prefer the term ‘casters’” — and burdensome research the kids have to do to ensure their love isn’t “doomed” after all.
Young Ms. Englert, daughter of the Australian director Jane Campion, is more girl next door than Cover Girl (i.e. Rossom and Deutch). She and Davis are tasked with giving the story pathos, but Englert’s real job is to hold her own with some of the finest actors to ever “Bless your heart” on the screen. She does.
It’s Ehrenreich who makes the romantic longing believable enough for us to root for these impassioned teens, even if we know what 17-year-old Ethan doesn’t — “15 will get you 20.”