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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part One


The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part One (Two Stars)

U.S.: Bill Condon, 2011

You would have thought that the eagerly awaited marriage of Bella Swan (as played by Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (as played by Robert Pattinson) of the Twilight movie saga would solve that series’ ongoing sex and repression issues.  But no such bloody luck.

 It turns out here that sex is not the cure-all we all were raised and TV-bred to think it is, or that it often becomes in the average Hollywood movie — even big-time horror romance movies like the Twilight stuff. There is some kind of intercourse going on in the Twilight Saga, somewhere (see boudoir shot above), though it sometimes seems to be somewhat rough sex. The Cullens‘ posh Rio de Janiero honeymoon suite keeps getting torn and hacked to shreds every morning after, to the distress of the honeymooners and the consternation of the help. And there‘s even a pregnancy — an extremely rough-looking half-vampire pregnancy, perhaps even more problematic than the satanic times Mia Farrow had in Rosemary’s Baby. But, instead of marital joy and wedded bliss and all that connubial jazz, the world‘s favorite human-vamp couple are plunged into more high-grossing  gloom and more lucrative frustration and repression. And that other fella, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) is still skulking around, teed off that he lost Bella.

Bella is pregnant and sick. Edward is distraught. The Cullen family, including Dr. Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli) is concerned. Bella’s dad Charlie the cop (Billy Burke), wonders what’s going on. And Jacob the pec-man gets angry again — grousing about how this is all Edward’s fault, perhaps because he thinks he should have taken over the movies by now. Meanwhile, the big, bad werewolves race and bound through the woods, and the vampires gather in covens, and the crowds line up in droves at the multiplexes, and the critics sharpen their knives and…Gee, why can’t they all just let these two kids, who never seem to leave their rooms,  have a high old sexy time in Rio? Doesn’t anyone have any Antonio Carlos Jobim CDs anywhere? Or any Rio DVDs?

But no…. Breaking Dawn, Part One, the latest chunk of the Twilight Saga — set in a world where handsome vampires and sexy werewolves pursue a repressed young teenage girl through the hills and forests of Forks, Washington — continues the series’ obsession with the love that dare not show its face and the lovers who seem trapped in an old Production Code. Who are we to complain? The series has grossed billions, kajillions, maybe mega-kajillions. Somebody’s watching it — and that also includes us snobbish movie critics, even though some of us might rather be doing something else: running and howling and bounding though the woods maybe, or playing “One Note Samba” in a torn-up hideaway in some Rio of the mind.

From the beginning, and all the way through her books “Twilight,” “New Moon,” “Eclipse,” and now “Breaking Dawn” (Part One, at least), novelist Stephenie Meyer has wisely hewed to the rules of the children‘s or young adults book game and kept onstage sex or hints of it out of the stories, even though the movie stories are mostly about sex or the consequences of sex, about the difficulties of vampire and humans making love (without therapy), and of werewolves and vampires getting along, or werewolves and humans getting it on.

Instead, the main characters of Twilight’s four installments — nervously romantic teen Bella, broodingly romantic heart-throb vampire Edward, and hunkily romantic wolf guy Jacob Black — mostly stare longingly at each other, fall madly in love, plunge into gloom, and wait for ecstasy, while other more evil vampires (like Michael Sheen) are up to sinister tricks elsewhere, in other sequels, and  werewolves prowl the Washington woods. The movies can’t do anything much about it, because novelist Meyer and her adaptors — constant screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, and, here, new director Bill Condon — stay steeped in that skittishness about sexuality, exemplified by these new awful pregnancy problems. (It seems odd at times that this movie was directed by a man who made a movie about the Kinsey Report, starring Liam Neeson as Kinsey.)

So Breaking Dawn the movie starts with what looks like a typical classy wedding between Edward and Bella (with Jacob popping up for a little seeming good-will mission). There’s some genuine undressed bedroom hanky panky when Bella and Ed are safely hitched. But then the pregnancy begins, to everyone‘s disturbance, and soon the whole vampire-werewolf friction thing starts up again too. As for the rest, you’ve probably seen part of it by now, or read the book, and, if you haven’t, you probably don’t want to know. You’re wise.

Kristen Stewart and Pattinson and Lautner (of the infamous Team Edward and Team Jacob), act about like they did in the other movies, which means passably okay, as long as you‘re not looking for Tracy and Hepburn (or even for Seth Rogen and Kristin Wiig). Stewart and Pattinson don’t rise above the material, but they don’t sink beneath it either. The best acting in the movie comes from Anna Kendrick as Bella‘s snappy schoolmate Jessica, delivering a sarcastic little wedding party speech that sounds as if Kendrick made it up on the spot. (Maybe she did; in any case, her monologue has more personality than anything else in the movie.)

I haven’t picked up or read one of the Meyer books. (And I won’t, so sue me.) But the rest of the dialogue in Rosenberg’s script, which for all I know she might be getting staright from the book itself, hasn’t improved over the last four movies. People don‘t really talk like this, and, for all I know, vampires and werewolves don‘t talk like this either, unless they don’t want to be mistaken for a florid type like Bela Lugosi, or are angling for a spot doing TV commercials on cable.

It’s still near-monosyllabic, flavorless, colorless soap opera stuff. And it’s almost anti-literary, anti-character too — even though Meyer has said that her four Twilight Books were modeled on such favorite novels or plays of hers as: “Pride and Prejudice” for “Twilight,” “Romeo and Juliet” for “New Moon,” “Wuthering Heights” for “Eclipse“ and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for “Breaking Dawn.” What a list! But, what, no “Anna Karenina?” No “Middlemarch?“ No “Streetcar Named Desire?” (“Bella! Bella! Bella! “I have always depended on the kindness of vampires…”)

Bill Condon of Gods and Monsters and Dreamgirls, as well as Kinsey, is the new director, succeeding Catherine Hardwicke, Chris Weitz and David Slade. (My suggestion for the sequel after the next sequel: Tyler Perry or Rob Zombie.) The movie, despite its hollow dialogue and sometimes punishing slow pace, does look sort of good. (Guillermo Navarro shot it.) The legions of Twilight fans, and all the members of team Edward and team Jacob (and Team Bella), won’t want it any different, of course. And I’m sure there are worse things you could be doing with your time. Reading the books, maybe. Or drinking blood.

But I honestly would have liked it better if we’d gone back to the old vampire tradition, the ugly evil horny vampire tradition of the ‘20s and ‘30s, and they‘d cast, instead of Robert Pattinson, somebody that looks like Lugosi or Max Scheck (the creepy spook in Murnau’s Nosferatu). Ditto with Taylor Lautner and a Lon Chaney Jr. look-alike. (A made-up John Malkovich for the vampire maybe? John Reilly under latex for the werewolf?) Then you could have the real Pattinson and Lautner, as themselves, banging on windows, in Rio and Forks and elsewhere, howling for Bella and demanding that they be given their old parts back. That movie may not have grossed as much, a few kajillions less maybe, and it might have disappointed its red sea of admirers, but at least it would have had some laughs — and maybe some blood in its veins.

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One Response to “Wilmington on Movies: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part One”

  1. Movie says:

    I like Elite Squad better than the sequel. There were some ideas in the second film that I’m sure they’ve taken from the first, especially the beginning, but the director probably said, if it’s not broken then don’t change it. I loved the brutality of the first film. It’s more toned down in the second but I think the first film focused more on the action and the sequel on the story. But nevertheless, they both are great films.Add movie showtimes to iGoogle


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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon