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Twilight Review – To Love It May Depend on Your Gender

Twilight Review – To Love It May Depend on Your Gender” width=”560″/>

Twilight, Stephanie Meyer’s four-book vampire series, has sold 17 million copies, it’s inspired a clothing line at Hot Topic and chocolates at Godiva; the first in the series, also called Twilight, is now a low-budget movie ($37 million; peanuts in Hollywood) that’s sold out 700 screenings before it’s even opened. Its stars are on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, its production has been tracked by legions of fans and it’s being called the next Harry Potter. The anticipation is high, there’s been a strict press embargo on reviews, but the movie’s out and people have seen it and so the question is: does it deserve epic squee? Is it worthy? The answer largely depends on your gender.

Twilight kicks off in Forks, Washington, a small town that’s as heavy and wet as a soggy sponge. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) has decided to spend time with dad, the town’s police chief, while her mom bops off to Florida with her new husband, and from the second she arrives it’s clear that the entire town are big fans of her previous work in movies like Panic Room and Into the Wild. Rather than being ostracized by her peers, she’s worshipfully embraced: They want to put her on the front page of the school newspaper, the local wino wants to make sure she remembers him, the waitress at the diner remembers her order from five years ago. Clearly, this girl is popular.

But Bella doesn’t want to be popular so much as she wants to hook up with brooding loner, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), because they sport the same skin pallor and wear the same shade of lipstick. Two strokes of luck instantly come her way: 1. Edwards likes her back. 2. He’s a vampire. A swoony romance with the undead! Could any girl be luckier? Cue a lot of soul-searching, chest-beating about being a monster, some evil vampires who take fashion tips from Italian Vogue, a battle to the death in a ballet studio and, inevitably, prom.

Twilight is designed to appeal to young women the way the stealth bomber is designed to be invisible to radar. Director Catherine Hardwicke was hired because her movie, Thirteen, is the teen girls’ cult film of choice, and Twilight, which plays like a big screen version of a CW show, stands a good chance of becoming the same. Boys might feel differently. Whereas static scenes of our lead actors making moon faces at one another are treated with all the camera pyrotechnics that Michael Bay brings to his car chases, the movie’s action is handled with a perfunctory, off-handedness that makes it instantly forgetable. While Kristen Stewart, as Bella, appears determined to do an impersonation of Jennifer Love Hewitt circa Party of Five, Robert Pattinson as the amazingly sensitive vampire Edward, is dandy as candy. His line-readings are slightly behind the beat, and his lanky body, keen fashion sense and improbable coif constantly reduce his co-star, and much of the audience, to pulsating masses of sweaty hormones.

But for all Twilight‘s heaving bosoms, quivering lips and limpid stares, this is a movie that is sexually charged without being overtly sexual, making vampires the perfect lust object for teenage girls. Edward wants Bella, he’s obsessed with her (just her smell can send him into seizures of passion), but he can’t touch her or do any of the inconvenient and occasionally icky things that teenage boys normally want to do like make out and have sex. Instead he must remain chaste, lest he chew her neck like a chicken drumstick. And so he’s the perfect boyfriend: Bella gets the satisfaction of stirring up all those lustful feelings without worrying about the normal consequences. It’s a blockbuster formula, one that titillates its audience for two hours, but never quite brings them to a climax. They’re saving that kind of satisfaction for the sequel.

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