Film Review: 'Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part I'

11.17.2011

By Mike Berlin

In the latest Stephenie Meyer movie, love hurts.

First, let me get this out of the way: I've never read a single Twilight book or seen any of the movies before last night, when I attended an "all-media" screening of the first half of Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final title in the series. But, regardless of the popular critical opinion painting the entire franchise as a poorly constructed, slightly religious, bank-rolling turd, I was not primed to be a hater as I entered the theater and passed through no fewer than four checkpoints (one where my cell phone was confiscated) to get my assigned seat. In the half-hour or so leading up to the movie, this momentous aura produced the same anticipation in me that I envision the horde of Twihards planted in the screening felt toward finally getting to witness Bella losing her virginity to the alabaster vampire of her dreams. This is all to say that I cheated and felt slightly guilty about witnessing Bella and Edward’s wedding—odd to begin a movie with such an emotionally climactic sequence, but I guess this is what we’ve all been waiting for—without having to feel the painful yearning that Kristen Stewart so convincingly embodies with her pleading eyes and quivering, pre-orgasmic lips.

For a Twilogy criticized for being too lethargic and angsty, the mood is surprisingly upbeat. This is due in no small part to the constant barrage of indie-pop interludes and montages that are manipulatively sprinkled throughout to create feeling where acting falls short. The Twilight cast is at its best when it exhibits the type of camp more likely found on General Hospital than on the big screen. And the vampires in the Cullen family, with their hokey regality and gravitas, are an absolute hoot—at one point, one of the non-Edwards elicited a gargantuan laugh from filmgoers with a deliciously overacted line. The crowd is so clearly in on the joke that the experience of seeing Breaking Dawn with a packed house seems more cult, like Rocky Horror or Human Centipede, than fanatical fantasy franchise, like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Of course, I did encounter my fair share of obsessed tween girls, one of which, while exiting the theater, exclaimed, “That was the best movie I’ve ever seen!”

Unfortunately, Breaking Dawn is not the best movie you will ever see. It is not the best movie you will see this year, or even this month. But it is undeniably fun for how horrible it is. On top of it’s awesomely bad acting (Taylor Lautner’s loner shtick is a melodramatic achievement) is another layer of awesomely bad, Syfy-original-movie-quality CGI, stridently displayed in a meeting of all the wolves on one of the many scenic beaches festooning the coasts of the Pacific Northwest. Ultimately, though, its kiddie sensibility detracts from how enjoyable it has the potential to be—for the subject matter, the sex and violence is so dull, it’s shocking (unless you enjoy watching Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart sucking face over and over again).

In the race for creating utterly helpless, weak, and self-effacing female characters, Stephenie Meyer is giving Lars von Trier a run for his money with Bella, she of eternal listlessness, desire, and jeggings. And it’s immediately clear—even to those unfamiliar with the couple—that without Edward, Bella would cease to exist. Her entire idea of self-worth is sickly dependent on being a part of him and pleasing him, even if that involves (often intentional) physical abuse. On their honeymoon, which is unimaginatively staged in a beachside resort off the coast of Brazil, Edward’s vampiric hunger for Bella is less apparent in their boring sex scenes than in the aftermath, portrayed both comically (a broken canopy bed frame) and violently (bruises all over Bella’s body). But when he stops boning Bella for fear of hurting her, she engages in a disturbing montage of seduction, trotting herself out in an assortment of PG-13 negligees and awkwardly positioning her body in suggestive manners. For those who haven’t read the book, I won’t spoil the surprise of where Bella’s masochistic concept of romance and loyalty take her. But I would like to remind young girls everywhere that love should not hurt this much, even if the man of your dreams has perfect skin and the promise of eternal youth.

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