Monday, December 7, 2009

That Dawg Done Stole the Show - Ramblings under the influence of the New Moon

Like hundreds of thousands of other people, I saw The Twilight Saga: New Moon over the weekend. I went with my boyfriend and a lesbian friend of ours. Admittedly we were not the target audience, our party conspicuously lacking in the teen straight girl demographic. But then, the $517 Million worldwide gross seems to indicate that some of the rest of us are ponying up our $10 to dream with the kids from Forks.

As we were leaving I stood off to one side listening to the other patrons flooding out of the packed theater. Apparently they had seen something amazing and transformative that I had missed. Many of them made comments like, You really have to see it three times to get the full impact, or It's so romantic, could you just die? These are actual quotes. I might be in trouble because I don't think I can sit through it three times and, although a couple of times during the movie, I wanted to die, very little about the film struck me as romantic. Self-indulgent, overwrought, empty, sure. Maybe even dark and melancholy, though as a writer, my own brain transports me to places far darker and more disturbing several times in an average day. But romantic? Huh-uh.

I suspect some of you might say that to compare this film to my technicolor daymares it ingenuous. I'll give you that. Review of my own work sometimes includes words like "creepy" and one reviewer admonished readers not to read my story "The D.C. Blues" because it was "actually really disturbing." Yeah, that's how I roll; pedaling my lonely Big Wheel across the scary expanses of life, like the kid in Kubrick's The Shining.

But I digress.

I read the first two Twilight books and, although I am not a fan of Stephenie Myers's writing, there was something in the novels that pulled me backwards in time to a nostalgic place of romantic yearnings. When I was fourteen or fifteen I was this quiet introverted kid with a soul that burned for earth-shattering romance. I longed for a perfect man who would love me unquestioningly. I imagined a man of incredible power and beauty, an artist with a perfect body, a movie-star's face, and a burning desire to love only me. (What boy wouldn't want that, after all?) And then I thought, Shit, what would a guy like that want with a boy like me? Therein lies the secret inner logic that fuels the Twilight series.

So I get the wish fulfillment. I get it on a visceral level. I felt it reading the first book, but I could not connect the empty, dull, drably uninteresting Edward Cullen to my dream man. Especially in the second film in the series. He is Darcy in a coma, George Emerson on Xanax. I wanted to shake him and say "Tell me something fascinating or passionate or funny; make me remember why I loved you back in the first film." And frankly when the charming Jacob (ably, ruggedly portrayed by the handsome Taylor Lautner) appeared on the screen, I kept hoping Edward would somehow be forgotten. Let the vampire catch up on his sleep; run with the big dogs, Bella.

Who could not like the idea of a bunch of half-naked pumped up Native American muscle boys wrestling in the woods? Their vibrant masculinity made Edward look all the more wasted and dead as he disrobed in the (climactic) scene in the city of the Vulturi.

I don't blame Robert Pattinson for Edward's lack of luster; I had lost interest in him by the end of the first book. Several Myers fans have assured me that Edward gets better as the books progress, that Bella starts to stand up for herself, that the plotting becomes more complex. I wonder if I will have the fortitude to pick up volume three.

For me, this movie was a mixed bag. Sure, there was a lot of eye candy and there were some solid performances. As I said before Taylor Lautner is charming. Ashley Greene is quirky and funny as Alice Cullen, one of the characters I liked better in the movies than in the books. Dakota Fanning is nearly perfect in her five minute role as the darkly powerful Jane, and the ever-fascinating Michael Sheen almost made me miss the glamor of early Anne Rice. Where was he when Neil Jordan was casting Interview with the Vampire?

Another friend of mine saw New Moon in Dallas during opening weekend. She said members of the audience literally cheered and applauded when Jacob stripped off his shirt to dab the blood from Bella's injured forehead. Well, I'm with ya girls, that dawg done stole the show.

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