Twilight

Twilight

***1/2

 

Last weekend, 15 million teenage girls and I saw “Twilight.” Uh, not together, of course.

The vampire romance, based on the beloved 2005 bestseller by Stephenie Meyer, grossed $70 million in its opening weekend – besting James Bond and shattering industry expectations.

Like “Sex and the City” before it, “Twilight” proves that there is a huge underserved market for quality cinema made by women for women. The sooner that Hollywood recognizes that American females are smart enough not to mistake movies with Matthew McConnaughey and Kate Hudson for quality cinema, the happier we all will be.

Kristen Stewart stars as Bella, a normal teenager from Arizona who decides to move to a small town in Washington State to live with her single father.

To Bella’s surprise, the hottest boy in school, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), seems to have a crush on her. The shy young man usually keeps to himself. But when Edward miraculously saves Bella from a car accident, he reveals both his feelings for her and a superhuman strength.

One moment Edward is sweet and charming, making it clear that he likes Bella. The next moment, he is cold and elusive, making it clear that he has tortured secrets to hide. In other words: he is mysterious, alluring, and perfect.

There are a few subtle but important aspects to “Twilight” that make it much better than you’d expect a movie like this to be.

The first is that the leading lady, Bella, is not a victim in any way. She isn’t an outcaste at school. Her parents aren’t perfect, but they are decent people who care about her. She isn’t angry or miserable or suffering from any disorder that they might make an after school special about.

Meyer understands that the biggest problems that most American teenagers have are the confusing and passionate fears and desires swirling around their own heads.

Bella’s world is not inhabited by good guys and bad guys, like in most stories like this. “Twilight” features mostly decent, likable people (and vampires). Disagreements are not good versus evil struggles. They are due to genuine cultural differences and prejudices that families have trouble letting go of.

And again to her credit, Meyer isn’t really making a statement about prejudice or urging us to ignore our differences. She is just telling it like it is to make her story more realistic.

While most of the audience was probably too busy drooling over Robert Pattinson to notice, newcomer Kristen Stewart is amazing in her first starring role.

She perfectly captures the existential angst and longing that comes with being a teenage girl, as well as the pure thrill and fearlessness of finding your first love. It is an unassuming, unpretentious performance that carries the picture without demanding any attention.

Forget vampires. Forget the hype. “Twilight” is simply an intelligent, well-written, well-acted romance. I recommend it.

 

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