Set the “Twilight” Clinging


Twilight
Starring
Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Peter Facinelli, Cam Gigandet, Taylor Lautner, Anna Kendrick, Michael Welch, Justin Chon, Christian Serratos, Gil Birmingham
Written by
Melissa Rosenberg
Based on the Twilight series by
Stephenie Meyer
Directed by
Catherine Hardwicke
Rated PG-13
for some violence and a scene of sensuality.

Man, that Robert Pattinson sure can stare. STARE STARE STARE. If you had a staring team and he was your clutch man, you’d be world champs for sure. In fact, the actor graciously declines all photo shoots for fear of mesmerizing magazine readers with those world-class headlights. One minute you’re enjoying a fluff piece on the beautiful cast of Twilight, the next your kids are grown, your beard is tickling your insoles, and you’re clutching a yellowed periodical in your malnourished fists.

You’d think such a force would be dangerous on the big screen, but no, you’re wrong. Perpetual motion ensures that we never gaze at him too long, and besides, there are lots of other neat distractions to enjoy within your immediate vicinity, like bean-thwapping the tweenie-weenies in the next row for ululating every time Pattinson squares his jaw, heaves his European chest, or growls creepy come-ons at his one true love.

I can see why little girls love Twilight the book so much. If the movie’s any indication, a nice alternate title might have been Everybody Loves Bella, Princess of Forks. For an alleged wallflower outcast new kid in town, Isabella Swan (Kristen Stewart) becomes popular rather quickly. She moves from Phoenix, Arizona, all the way to — not Tacoma, but Forks, Washington, to be with her police chief daddy (Billy Burke in a thankless, weary role) and within a day, one of her dad’s friends has brought her a truck to drive to school (no money is exchanged) and his son is pie-eyed with fiery passion before she ever opens her mouth. The waitress at the local diner remembers Bella’s favorite dessert, and the local wino is slobbering all over her about the Christmas she sat on his Santa-clad knee. The whole town falls to its knees to kiss her Chuck Taylors.

Forks High School isn’t much different. She’s barely pulled into the parking lot when someone compliments her ride, and she barely makes it through the doorway before Eric Yorkie (Justin Chon) is all over her, desperate to be her friend. She gathers more buddies in gym class, Mike Newton (Michael Welch) and Jessica Stanley (Anna Kendrick), the former of whom is immediately mad for her willowy bod. At lunch we meet the shy Angela Weber (Christian Serratos), and wow, everybody is so NICE and CLINGY. It’s like they just needed one last person for their clique, and magically, she appeared!

But nobody loves Bella like Edward Cullen (Pattinson). Even the nice kids avoid him, and Edward, at first, avoids Bella like the plague. His piercing gawk notwithstanding, every time he sees her, he looks like he’s about to throw up. The angsty pantsy emo hunk skips school, ignores her, treats her like garbage, but like everyone else in Forks, he cannot resist her. That funeral-parlor flesh, those vacant eyes, those wan, trembling lips. And when he saves her from a runaway minivan, somehow arriving on scene instantaneously from across the school parking lot and stopping the vehicle’s advance with his bare hands, their star-crossed fate is sealed.

You see, Edward has a secret, one known to a million prepubescent book-skimmers across the land. He is a vampire, a bad boy. But he wants to be good. Like everyone in his “family” (SPOILER: They love Bella too!), he’s a vegetarian, feasting only on dumb animals and leaving those fragrant humans alone. Redneck probably tastes like festered hops and Kodiak, anyway. The only drawback to this blossoming lust is that he cannot succumb to his desires — not even a kiss — lest he submit to his primal urges and turn her into Swan-chops.

“Lust” is the perfect description for what Bella and Edward share: they’re just hot and stupid for each other. Pattinson and Stewart have palpable chemistry, but they play their roles with an overwrought ardor easily cooled by fucking. Also, Bella, for all of her blather ’bout strength and independence (in one of the film’s funniest scenes she tells her new pal Angela that because she’s a “strong, independent woman,” she should ask Eric to the prom herself instead of waiting for him to pop the question, when nothing we’ve seen of Angela would indicate that she’s anything more than a mousy twerp hungry for acceptance), is dangerously codependent. At the end, as they twirl alone across a gazebo dance floor, she even begs Edward to KILL HER so they can be together FOREVER. To his credit, Edward, being an immortal with a few centuries under his belt, and who’s probably witnessed plenty of such hormonal displays, wisely says no. He should’ve added, “Bitch, you’re 17. Get over yourself.” But, penetrating stare and string-bean lips and all, Edward has excellent restraint.

As both the wise Roger Ebert and DeAnn Welker have said, Twilight was made for a specific audience, and I am definitely not that audience. My patronage is death. When I entered the theater, I felt like an uncool dad wandering into his daughter’s slumber party. I thought I’d be OK seeing it on a Friday afternoon, some 13 hours after anybody who’s anybody caught its midnight sneak, but I was wrong: wall-to-wall flibbertigibbets everywhere you turned.

What’s funny is that even though I, a 36-year-old man, am not the target demographic, I think even when I was, I’d have found a movie like Twilight repellant (Edward to its Bella pull), almost insulting. The cast is serviceable, and director Catherine Hardwicke did an excellent job — this is the woman behind Thirteen, after all — with what she was given, and Oregon, standing in for the state of Washington, has never looked so breathtakingly gloomy. But that story? Ugh. Once you get past the contemporary setting and “modern” grrl heroine (independent, my ass), I think part of Stephenie Meyer’s message is that girls need boys to justify their existence, and undead boys can look forward to an eternity of whiny, slavish harping if they’re not careful. It’s enough to make you wanna drive a stake through your own heart.

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