The movie takes place in a small, Bible-thumping South Carolina town where everybody knows everybody else’s business. Our hero, an iconoclast with a literary bent who’s supposed to be 15 years old (played by 22-year-old Alden Ehrenreich) falls in love with the new girl in town (Alice Englert), who’s staying with her notorious and reclusive uncle (Jeremy Irons) in his mansion, off the beaten path. She is indeed a witch—or “caster.” Both Irons and a family friend who’s a seer (Viola Davis) are concerned because when the girl turns 16 she will be claimed, either by the light or the dark side. Various family members are turning up to root for their interests.
Beautiful Creatures has enough exposition for two or three ordinary movies because without constant explanations it would be impossible to understand. (Even so, it requires concentration to follow along.)
I was willing to go on this journey but after a while I just stopped caring. Irons seems to be having fun with his juicy dialogue; Davis’ talents are wasted here. Emma Thompson adds some welcome spice as a small-town bigot whose body happens to be housing the spirit of Englert’s evil mother, but there’s only so much she can do to rescue this lumbering film.
Beautiful Creatures may read better on the printed page than it plays onscreen, but I’m not sufficiently intrigued to find out for myself.