Much-vaunted teenage vampire movie lacks teeth

PUBLISHED: 12:57 11 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:41 07 September 2010

Twilight (12A) Director Catherine Hardwicke Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Cam Gigandet 122 mins. Two star rating For about five days in the States pre Buffy, pre Anne Rice, Goth vampire romance was bigger than

Twilight (12A)

Director Catherine Hardwicke

Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Cam Gigandet

122 mins.

Two star rating

For about five days in the States pre Buffy, pre Anne Rice, Goth vampire romance was bigger than Bond and High School Musical.

Although once the core audience of teenage girls who are fans of the series of millions selling books by Stephenie Meyers were sated, interest dropped away pretty quickly.

Still, there are three more books to go - so for newcomer distributors Summit Entertainment this could be like hitting a mother lode - a cheapskate Harry Potter.

The movie inside all this whirl of publicity is a very modest, rather pallid affair which they seem to have expended very little money on.

Bella (Stewart) is the slightly awkward teen who moves to live with her dad in a Twin Peaks-like town in Washington where she attracts the attention of Edward Cullen (Pattinson), one of a family of aloof foster children who have little to do with the locals.

The film has been inspired in its casting. Kristen Stewart is really exceptional in the lead, grounding the whole thing and the scenes with her father (Burke) feel very genuine.

Not that anybody will much notice as the target audience only seem concerned about Pattinson whose appearance provokes screams. The British actor (he was something in a Potter once) plays Cullen as a vampire Edward Scissorhands - a bloodsucker you can bring home to your parents.

In some of his early scenes, he is quite preposterously stilted. But what I like about him, and the whole film, is that it is pure old school Goth, when it was all about loving old horror movies and dressing up like a Munster, before all the whiney inadequate emos spoilt it.

Don't think Angel or Spike in Buffy. Think ex-Bauhaus lead singer Pete Murphy in the hi fi advert listening to Wagner while the ducks on the wall fly away.

Pattinson is a perfect 80s Goth icon, beautiful yet physical inept. Any movement seems a struggle. His character is supposedly laden by an eternal anguish. But to look at him. you'd think he suffers only under the weight of the great sculpted Eraserhead of hair he labours beneath.n - especially when the title role is then given to Sam Neill.

Neill always struck me as a Prince Charles of an actor - well meaning, earnest, slightly pained but generally ineffective. His slightly lost expression seemed to be saying, 'And what exactly is it I do here?'

The shift from potential leading man to confirmed character actor seems to have lifted a weight of expectations from his shoulders and he really lets rip here playing an eccentric clergyman with an infatuation for Tokay wine and interesting ideas on reincarnation.

Outside of O'Toole, the cast is full of names who have achieved a level of fame/ familiarity without quite finding a purpose. Fellow Antipodean Bryan Brown pops up, while the narrator's role goes to Northam.

This strong ensemble means this isn't a one-man show although O'Toole is the draw. He's a gaunt figure and the skin seems to have been stretched away from his eyes which are permanently watery. Yet he still brims with life and vigour, as if the 75-year-old was just acting old.

He plays Fisk, a grumpy rationalist who likes decrying everything as "poppycock".

One of his two sons died in the Boar War and he enjoys giving the surviving brother Fisk Jr (Northam) a hard time.

So what's the film itself like? Well nothing much, but just enough.

If you aren't swept along by the acting this whimsical light comedy will be a trifling waste of time. But if you do, this funny and moving period piece satisfies in the way a perfectly executed short

story does.


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