Yet another teen fantasy film based on a book series.
Living, as we do, far away from the glare of American pop culture, we can only get a filtered understanding of which movie is In and which movie's just a movie. For instance, we didn't realize Twilight had such a ravenous fanbase until we read this very funny article cataloging all the YouTubed fan reactions to the Twilight trailer. Oh, gosh.
We can't really say whether Twilight lives up to the hype - but that's because we don't know how big the hype is. We can, however, offer our purely virginal (drumroll-crash! yes, thank you, we'll be here all night) opinion of this Victorian Era hangover of repressed desires and smothered emotions. Overall, it's a fair-to-OK romp through the standard tropes of sensitive vampires and teen angst that we've all seen in other B-movie cult classics of the same genre. It's neither particularly exciting nor particularly enlightening, but it's not a bad way to spend a couple hours either. At least, Robert Pattinson is so... PRETTY. (He even glitters in the sun! We want a boy who glitters!)
Our heroine is the super-pale and emotionally inhibited Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), the new kid in town. The town in question is Forks, Washington, a tiny hamlet full of flannel-bedecked good ol' boys and rolling pines and, yes, also sexy vampires. On Bella's first day at the new school, she is quickly absorbed into the standard clique of likable doofuses; not quite popular, not quite nerdy. Her gee-golly friends point out the most titillatingly elite group in school: the Cullens gang. This brood of ephemereal, ashen-faced glamour models glide in and out of the school cafeteria, going about their mysterious, cool people business. When Bella catches the eye of the brooding (and rosy-lipped, we just had to mention) Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, he of the interesting nose and pretty eyelashes too), there are some minor fireworks.
Alas, Bella is cursed (blessed?) with a scent which sends all those ravenous "vegetarian" vampires into a, ahem, frenzy. As Edward notes in a moment of particularly peppy dialogue, "It's like you're my own private brand of heroin." Bella is equally beguiled by this studly, ghostly Victorian hero - especially after he saves her from careening cars and drunken would-be rapists with his super strength and super glowering. They embark on a tame relationship, filled with lots of lying in a bed of flowers, holding hands and burning, smothered desire.
We read the New York Times review before going, where the long history of virgin/vampire aesthetic is mentioned, and, because of that, we went into the film already with that idea in our heads. And the more we saw it, the more it felt Victorian! From the glorification of ultra-pale, ivory skin, to the emotional inhibitions and Edward's half-repulsed, half-excited description of all the "horrible things" those bad men would have done to Bella - and even the names, I mean, who'se named Bella and Edward Cullen nowadays?! - it all felt very 19th century. There were even some explicit visual references, such as when Bella realizes Edward is a vampire (after a very plodding process of discovery) and she imagines an old silent film reel of a 19th century Edward descending onto her to suck her blood. It was all very Puritanical. Indeed, the book series' creator apparently said the books are about "love, not lust" - hmm, in other words, sex is bad. Just replace "mortality" with "virginity" and Bella's post-prom decision becomes much more loaded.
This "oh, Mr. Cullen!" vibe is wrapped in your standard teen movie package, complete with some appealing indie/alt songs in the background, perfectly sculpted hair and the prom. (In the end, we're even treated to an unexpected music video of 15 Steps by Radiohead. We love that song!) The final evil vampires vs. good vampires showdown feels a little tacked on, since most of the film was busy with the smothered romance and vampire revelation. But that's okay - even if we got a little tired of everyone's stammered hesitations and inability to express anything other than sardonic wit (or have we been spoiled by the highly expressive Hindi dil?!), and we were a little put-off my Bella's constant damsel-in-distress act - it was generally inoffensive and somewhat entertaining. Not really recommended, but if your friends ask you to go, meh, why not? And least you can go ogle Robert Pattinson as he fights against his passions.