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Twilight makes abstinence sexy
February 22, 2009, 3:10 am
Filed under: review, Twilight

Here is a Twilight review to keep you entertained.

By Bruce Bulloch
February 20, 2009
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Rated PG-13
(Three and one half stars)

Before there was coffee or Microsoft, before there were grunge bands or Swedes there was the rain.

The rain in Washington is more than weather, it is the stuff of myth. It affects our mood, shapes our collective personality and defines the very place we call home. It is surprising therefore that so few films set in the Pacific Northwest give it much of a role to play.

“Twilight,” Catherine Hardwicke’s breathy film about a girl and the vampire who loves her, bucks this trend. The logging town of Forks, Washington is bundled in a cocoon of scudding clouds and obscured horizons. Hardwicke uses this muted landscape to pull everything in close, painting a world that is both intimate and ethereal—the perfect place for a young vampire to fall in love.

Bella (Kristen Stewart) is the new kid at the local high school. While she works her way through the awkward ritual of fitting into a new community, she gets teamed up in science class with a stunningly handsome boy named Edward (Robert Pattinson). But Edward is hardly the friendly type; in fact, he seems bent on avoiding her. Bella pushes back on Edward, at first just to save her pride.

Soon the two become drawn to each other, but their attraction is held at bay by Edward’s secret. Even though he’s a “vegetarian” vampire—that is, he only kills animals for food—its hard to date a girl when you’re not sure you’d rather kiss her or drink her blood. “Twilight” has to navigate its way through a series of contrivances and silliness lurks just beneath the surface. But Hardwicke seems to know that if the film is going to work, it’s going to have to find an emotional rhythm that pushes logic to the side.

“Twilight” is a film by a woman that is unabashedly aimed at girls. While it has many of the clichés typical of teen dramas, it also has a surprisingly elegant romantic sensibility. The weather helps, of course, creating lyrical vision of the story that seduces you into accepting its internal logic.

And the actors help as well. “Twilight” owes at least part of its success to the fact that Kristen Stewart was born to play Bella. Stewart is a complex actress. She is part child, part woman; feminine yet awkward and willful when the occasion calls for it. She can play both the teenager and the heroine, helping the film navigate between the high school cafeteria and the supernatural forces that lurk just outside its door.

Pattinson’s Edward seems, at first blush, to be another “The O.C.” clone. But he has a touch of Joaquin Pheonix in him, a brooding honesty that brings some credibility to his love for Bella. Between the two of them they generate a fair amount of heat and the rough edges of the movie just don’t seem to matter that much.

This is a good thing, too, because the script is a little uneven. The dialogue where Edward confesses his secret to Bella would be laughable if it weren’t Stewart and Pattinson who were delivering it.

The film has a strong sexual energy to it remarkable in a story that has an equally strong vein of abstinence at its core. Edward can’t give into to his desire for Bella for fear of what other urges might be unleashed.

As for Bella, she flirts with her utter vulnerability in Edward’s arms. “Twilight” takes a girl’s point of view on the tension between sex and romance. Abstinence has rarely been so dangerous or sexy.

Bella and Edward have more than Edward’s carnivorous impulses to worry about. Another group of vampires moves into the neighborhood and one of them, James (Cam Gigandet), takes a disliking to Edward. He decides it would be cruel sport to kill Edward’s girlfriend.

With the young lovers on the run, “Twilight” has a lot going on at once. But Hardwicke holds the tension with an effortless grace. This is a film that knows its strengths and is smart enough to play to them.

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