It is in no way disrespectful to this movie to say that I enjoyed the audience reaction as much as I enjoyed what was on the screen. In a theater filled with fans who had patiently waited for over an hour, it was possible to hear some lines softly recited along with the characters, some squeals of joy at seeing favorite moments depicted, and, in a few quiet scenes, some happily sad sniffs.
“Twilight,” the first in the Stephanie Meyer series of books about a high school romance where the boy happens to be a vampire, has become “Twilight” the movie and it has been brought to life with respectful diligence for the source material and a warm understanding of its characters and target audience. Catherine Hardwicke has developed something of a speciality in stories about teenagers with “13,” “The Nativity Story,” and “The Lords of Dogtown,” and one of the pleasures of the film is the way she shows us the rhythms of teenage interaction.
Bella (a perfectly cast Kristen Stewart) has left sunny Phoenix for the rainiest town in America, Forks, Washington, to live with her father. The students at her new school welcome her warmly but the boy who dazzles her is handsome Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). At first, he seems to dislike her, but it turns out that he has just been trying to hide from her and from himself how much he is attracted to her.
These days, it is increasingly difficult to find a reason for a couple not to get together so fast there is no time for a story to happen and Meyer specifically created Edward and Bella with a permanent dilemma to give her characters and her readers some breathing room to explore the relationship. Part of the appeal of the story is an almost-Victorian sense of repression, sacrifice, and longing, all so sincerely depicted it just might single-handedly bring back the swoon. Young girls can enjoy this story because of Bella’s sense of power — loving her so devotedly all but un-mans a creature designed to be “the world’s most dangerous predator.” Edward has the attributes of the adolescent ideal for romance since before the days of “Romeo and Juliet,” “Wuthering Heights” and “Titanic” — unconditional love, parental disapproval, and ultimate impossibility.
The film falters a little in the portrayal of the vampires, who seem, even by fantasy standards, unnaturally pasty-faced, and some of the special effects are a little cheesy. It’s hard to make someone super-fast without looking cartoony. But it benefits from some deft and easy humor and sly twists on both vampire lore (let’s just say that mirrors and sunlight are different for these vampires than for the traditional Bram Stoker variety, with subtle hints to crosses and garlic) and high school (giving it up on prom night takes on a new meaning). Hardwicke, originally a production designer, also lets the settings help tell the story, from the lush greens of the opening shots to the Cullen’s sun-filled home. But the movie belongs to Bella and Edward and Stewart and Pattinson show us a tenderness and devotion that makes them one of this year’s most romantic couples.
Brent Marchant has written a book called Get the Picture: Conscious Creation Goes to the Movies, about movies that demonstrate the the idea that “that through our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings, we create our own reality.” For Beliefnet, he has created a list of 10 lessons from movies about the “law of attraction.” Movies can teach us to “write our own script,” “embrace alternate endings,” and “face our fears.” Some of the movies he recommends are classics like “The Wizard of Oz” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but he has some unusual selections like “What Dreams May Come,” with Robin Williams as a doctor devastated by the death of his child, and “The Turning Point,” about two dancers, one who chooses family and one who chooses her career, who envy each other. I like the way that Marchant has located the themes of taking responsibility for one’s actions and one’s aspirations in such a wide range of films.
Cinematical has a great tribute to one of my favorites, Doris Day’s “The Thrill of it All.” Day was so wholesome that it is easy to forget how talented she was, but she could do it all — sing, dance, act, and above all, she is one of the best light comediennes in Hollywood history. I love The Thrill of It All!, a hilarious romp that as Cinematical notes makes some very sharp and timely points about our consumer society. Watch the scene they focus on and keep in mind that this film was made during the era now portrayed in the Mad Men television series.
Day plays the wife of a successful obstetrician (James Garner) who becomes an accidental media sensation when she starts doing ads for “Happy Soap.” This creates enormous upheaval at home — it was the pre-feminist era, and the movie’s ending is so unabashedly sexist it will have you howling with either laughter or disbelief. But if that message is outdated, its commentary on the “organization man” and manipulative marketing still feels very apt. And it is always a blast to see two of Hollywood’s most gifted performers doing what they do better than just about anyone. Plus, Garner drives his car into a swimming pool. The witty screenplay was written by Larry Gelbart (“Tootsie,” the “M*A*S*H” television series) and Carl Reiner (“The Dick Van Dyke Show”), who appears in the clever trailer and the film, and the capable co-stars include Arlene Francis (who is adorable in the first scene as a wife with some very good news) and many of the top character actors and comics of the 1960’s.
Many thanks to my wonderful daughter for showing me this fabulous compilation of Day’s “mad” scenes.