Beastly (Daniel Barnz, 2011)

Beastly’s message is to reject the superficial and embrace one’s inner beauty … or some shit like that. It’s very difficult for a film of this nature to posit such an ideology when the market in which this film is geared toward is obsessed with the superficial. Twilight-based cinema reinforces particular images of beauty and love purely through a lens of carnal attraction. That never became problematic for a film like Twilight, because whatever intended message it had, it at least embraced its silliness and didn’t attempt to convey a deeper level of emotional understanding – instead, there’s a very conscious effort to simply put two good looking people together and have them do the sort of thing that good looking people do (there are obvious pitfalls to such an approach in filmmaking, of which I’ll get to a bit later). The very basis of Beastly is to question that ideology, and in doing so, it fails in spectacular fashion.

Beastly opens with what now has become traditional Twilight-driven imagery – the abdominally gifted male (Alex Pettyfer) flaunts his physique as women gush over his image and prestige. He’s running for class president at his obnoxiously ultra-modern high school – his message: elect him based on his looks and money. Well, at least he’s honest about it. He wins and cozies up with a poor (though obviously attractive) girl who he was competing against. Life goes on, he is cursed, etc.

I typically try to understand whatever worldview a film of this nature attempts to shove in my face, but this has to be one of the most ludicrous and poorly conceived films I’ve seen in quite some time. Women in Beastly embrace a male with so many homoerotic and domineering tendencies, that one has to question their mental faculties. The singular male star manages to become a stalker and still get the girl. Musical cues are horrendously misplaced, with visual accompaniment being amateur at best. The whole picture reeks of a rejected CW pilot episode.

I can excuse flawed depictions of women, men, of gender, and of high school life. There have been worse. Same goes for such a flagrant rejection of formal filmmaking technique and design. But what really offends me most about this film is how people can accept such imagery and filmmaking without critically understanding its consequences. Not to hop onto my high horse, but films spawned out the vein of Twilight seem geared at offering pleasures purely through superficial content – the lack of any subjective meaning in any of these films makes it so incredibly hard to feel challenged or tested in anyway. That sort of filmmaking will never get the nearly 2,000 screens that Beastly had on its opening weekend. It’s a disappointing thought to get around.

Rating: 1/10