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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Beautiful Creatures

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert star in a scene from the movie "Beautiful Creatures."
On its surface, the gothic romance "Beautiful Creatures" (Warner Bros.) comprises a passable if pretentious, blend of supernatural elements reminiscent of the "Twilight" franchise and a lush setting straight out of a Nicholas Sparks adaptation.

But a mixed religious outlook makes the occult elements underlying writer-director Richard LaGravenese's screen version of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's 2009 novel more troubling than they might otherwise seem.

In fact, few in the targeted audience of teen date movie consumers are likely to possess the discernment necessary to bring this kaleidoscope of positive and negative spiritual attitudes into proper focus.

Viewed from the perspective of restless teen Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), life in the small town of Gatlin, S.C., is nothing short of a nightmare. Overrun with churches and populated by moronic, book-banning evangelical Christians, it's a venue of stultifying boredom.

All that begins to change, though, with the arrival of mysterious new-girl-in-town Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), for whom Ethan quickly falls.

Like Ethan, who can't get enough of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s "Slaughterhouse-Five," Lena is a literary rebel. She not only fancies Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird"—which the Gatlin authorities, for unexplained reasons, have seen fit to censor—but the works of anarchic poet Charles Bukowski as well. (How LaGravenese resists the temptation to drop angst icon Sylvia Plath's name into the mix is anyone's guess.)

Since Lena's blue-state cultural tastes obviously make her "different," her blinkered classmates and their equally close-minded parents jump to the ridiculous conclusion that she's a witch. Thing is, they're right. But Ethan is no disapproving Darrin Stephens of "Bewitched," so this revelation doesn't bother him a bit.

Still, it's not all monotony-breaking fun and games for Ethan and Lena. Their heterogeneous relationship draws the steadfast opposition of Lena's warlock uncle and guardian Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons); it also places them at risk due to the schemes of her spell-casting mother, Sarafine (Emma Thompson).

Appropriately, given that he's 17 and she's approaching her 16th birthday -- a pivotal event in the life of a young witch, so we're told—Ethan and Lena's physical interaction is generally restrained. One scene, however, does end ambiguously enough to leave the audience wondering whether their onscreen necking leads on, after the cut-away, to something less acceptable.

In the case of Ethan's best pal, Link (Thomas Mann), plot complications and writhing visuals leave us in no doubt that he has been seduced, as well as bewitched, by Ridley (Emmy Rossum), a troublemaking relative of Lena's.

By contrast to the mercilessly caricatured Anglo-Saxons of Gatlin, the burgh's African-American librarian Amma (Viola Davis) is enlightenment personified. Thus she blithely combines her role as a custodian of conjuring lore—as well as her practice of seeking guidance from deceased ancestors after placating them by placing tidbits of their favorite foods on top of their graves—with faithful church attendance.

The wrap-up does celebrate the power of sacrificial love, a theme obviously in keeping with scriptural faith, and even a local preacher's sermon is used to reinforce this message. But by then, most of the Christians of Gatlin have been shown to be so hateful—and witchcraft portrayed as so much fun—that impressionable viewers may be too confused to pick the wheat from the chaff.

The film contains an ambivalent portrayal of Christianity, brief sacrilegious behavior, restrained scenes of violence with fleeting gore, semi-graphic nonmarital sexual activity, at least one use of profanity and some crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Didacus Joseph of Cadiz: Born in Cadiz, Spain, and christened Joseph Francis, the youth spent much of his free time around the Capuchin friars and their church. But his desire to enter the Franciscan Order was delayed because of the difficulty he had with his studies. Finally he was admitted to the novitiate of the Capuchins in Seville as Brother Didacus. He later was ordained a priest and sent out to preach. 
<p>His gift of preaching was soon evident. He journeyed tirelessly through the territory of Andalusia of Spain, speaking in small towns and crowded cities. His words were able to touch the minds and hearts of young and old, rich and poor, students and professors. His work in the confessional completed the conversions his words began. </p><p>This unlearned man was called "the apostle of the Holy Trinity" because of his devotion to the Trinity and the ease with which he preached about this sublime mystery. One day a child gave away his secret, crying out: "Mother, mother, see the dove resting on the shoulder of Father Didacus! I could preach like that too if a dove told me all that I should say." </p><p>Didacus was that close to God, spending nights in prayer and preparing for his sermons by severe penances. His reply to those who criticized him: "My sins and the sins of the people compel me to do it. Those who have been charged with the conversions of sinners must remember that the Lord has imposed on them the sins of all their clients." </p><p>It is said that sometimes when he preached on the love of God he would be elevated above the pulpit. Crowds in village and town squares were entranced by his words and would attempt to tear off pieces of his habit as he passed by. </p><p>He died in 1801 at age 58, a holy and revered man. He was beatified in 1894.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, when I help someone who is ill, let me never forget that love is the most important medicine. And when I am ill, Lord, please send me medical men and women who are not only wise and skilled but filled with love.


 
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