Catherine Hardwicke’s entire filmography consists of stories about teenagers, for teenagers. She’s responsible for Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown, The Nativity Story, Red Riding Hood, and, of course, Twilight. Her visual style consists of handheld, kinetic camera-work and a near-monochromatic color scheme.
Her films often feel like early Sam Raimi, where the acting and the visual style only exist to serve the purpose of the themes. This means the performers overact and the camera-work is often distracting, for better or worse.
For Hardwicke’s breakout film, Thirteen, her methods worked because they served the themes and the overall story. In Twilight, her methods feel strange and otherworldly, and oftentimes downright silly.
And I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m going to talk about Kristen Stewart’s performance. I have a hard time making fun of her, because I’ve seen her give good performances before. She was good in Into the Wild. I liked her in Panic Room. She was even good as Girl In Line in The Thirteenth Year. And while her performance is truly distracting, especially her line delivery, I honestly don’t think it’s her fault. Or Robert Pattinson’s fault.
It’s really not even Hardwicke’s fault. I think you know where this is going.
You think I’m going to blame Mormonism. And I’m not. I’m blaming Stephenie Meyer’s mid-life crisis.
She has a loving husband, a few kids, and she needs some excitement in her life. She creates the Garyiest Stu of them all, and makes him fall in love with a lanky, awkward, impossibly incompetent teenage girl who is “average-looking” and fairly rude to everybody.
This is Stephenie Meyer’s fantasy? She can do whatever she wants in a world of her creation, and she makes the protagonist this bad at living?
Much has been said about the decidedly un-feminist approach to girlhood in this series, and I don’t mean to add more books to this Nazi bonfire, but watching Twilight last night made me truly understand how strangely backwards this series is, and how odd its popularity is in a world where Romney didn’t win the election.
Twilight adheres very, very well to what my grandparents think high school should be like. And that’s absurd. It’s absurd because Edward is a one hundred year old man who watches an underage girl sleep in her bed when he’s only met her once (implying, perhaps, that if they’d met more than once it would be fine). It’s absurd because she likes that kind of thing. It’s absurd because Catherine Hardwicke had a hand in this, and she has given us a far more realistic depiction of teenagers in all of her other films, before and after this one.
It’s absurd because not only do parents think this is okay, they wholeheartedly embrace it. Edward must protect Bella at all times because she doesn’t know how to do anything. Bella must always defer her important decisions to Edward, because he is much better at handling difficult decisions.
Bella can only trust her loving father, because her mother is equal parts neglectful and clingy, and is now traveling the country with her baseball-playing new husband. I don’t even know how that works. It’s a trifecta of unlikability. Why can’t her mom just be dead? This is a complete creation of Meyer. She can kill mom if she wants to.
Throughout the movie, aimless girls are looking for somebody to go to their prom with, and they just have to helplessly wait for Bella-obsessed men to come ask. Why are they obsessed with Bella? Meyer has gone out of her way to tell us that she’s unremarkable in every way. But, wait, this is her fantasy. In her world, the thinly-veiled version of herself in high school is loved by every boy she ever meets, but only protected by the person she loves. Who is a monster.
Which brings me to my last point. Teenage boys are monsters. I don’t mean they constantly want sex and they’ll do anything to get it, and thus they are monstrous. I mean, in the world that Meyer has created, teenage boys are actually monsters. And all they do is try their best to keep from literally eating a girl’s face. And the girl likes it. She wants it forever.
What happened? I don’t know. This movie is strange. Not because of the filmmaking or even the characters. It’s weird because of its extreme popularity with young girls who should know better, and with parents who should really know better.
And I haven’t even talked about the structure yet, which is disorienting in its simplicity and adherence to half-hour television plotlines. In the first act, the prom is mentioned and a hot guy broods his way into the film. In the second act, the brooding hot guy reveals how smart and strong and perfect he is, and in the final act the hot, smart, strong, and perfect brooding guy takes the girl to prom.
What? That’s it? The worst thing that happens is that the girl is chased by another vampire for one afternoon. One vampire against five. Or six. Or whatever. Doesn’t matter. The tension just isn’t there. The only tension in the film lies between the two lead actors, and their strained, exhausting line deliveries.
Twilight is really popular. You all know this. I recommend that you see it. It’s an odd relic of pop culture that I truly don’t understand.
But, in its defense, I’m not really its demographic. I’ve met a female human being who is intelligent, funny, and totally capable of daily life without my constant protection and supervision, and I fell in love with her instead.