Main Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson

Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Tap Dancers - PD

Dancing With the Stars will never be the same after me.

Neely O’Hara called me from her new home in Brunei this morning begging me to please help her arrange an annulment that will be as spectacularly successful as the wedding that MNM enterprises planned for her at Chateau Maine this summer. I had to be quite firm with her that when it comes to grooms, we have a strict no refund policy.   She will have to seek separatist assistance elsewhere. She then went into a long rant about Isis but I really have no interest in cheesy television shows from decades ago. I had the misfortune of guest starring on an episode as Astarte but Andrea Thomas kept trying to shoehorn her way into my big tap solo and the poor dear had three left feet and apparent early Parkinsonism in her arms.

After hanging up on Neely, I kept the telephone close by while I went through my morning calisthenics and tap routines with Lulu Pigg, my tap coach, and then I retired to the vocal studio with Madame Mimi, my new voice therapist, where we worked on my upper register. It hasn’t gotten much exercise recently and I have a new musical project on the horizon which will require my coloratura to be at its most rapturous. A few times through Die Holle Rache and I was ready to take on the world.   I was expecting Mr. Hopkiss from Dancing with the Stars to call and set up my next taping date. My previous appearance was such a success that I am sure to win any awards they can invent. After all, if that Brillo Palin person, with her abrasive personality, not to mention mean right hook, could be invited time after time before being scrubbed, a true superstar like myself should be enough to bring their ratings to a new stratospheric level with every appearance.

The phone, however, remained oddly silent, and I repaired to the home theater where I decided to choose a film to help me catch up on a cultural phenomenon that apparently came and went when I was resting in the cryogenics lab, the world of Pacific Northwest vampires invented by Stephenie Meyer in her successful series of novels which later became an even more successful series of films, the first of which is Twilight. I have heard multiple cultural references to them but had never seen it, so I popped the DVD (obtained from the five dollar sale bin at Pic and Save) into the player and settled in. Normy joined me with a pitcher of margaritas and we made a cozy little party of it.

Twilight is the story of the sullen Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart, looking constantly petulant), a child of divorce.   For somewhat obtuse reasons, she decides to no longer live with her mother (Sarah Clarke), remarried to a minor league baseball player, but to return to her father (Billy Burke), the chief of police of Forks, Washington, a small lumber town in the Olympic rain forest. There she enrolls in the local high school, populated by twenty and thirty somethings of various ethnicities never seen in remote rural Washington towns. Chief amongst the students are the mysterious Cullen family, five foster siblings of the town doctor (Peter Facinelli) and his wife (Elizabeth Reaser) who keep to themselves with a mysterious remoteness that seems to consist of slow motion photography and excess Max Factor. Edward (Robert Pattinson), has doe eyes and overly moussed hair and he and Bella form an attachment, much to the chagrin of her childhood playmate, the Quileute Indian Jacob (Taylor Lautner).   The reason the Cullens keep themselves apart from regular society, it turns out, is that they are actually a coven of vampires. They have settled in Forks with its near constant gloom and rain because, in this conception, when sunlight hits their skin, they don’t burst into flame as is traditional in the genre but rather sparkle as if covered with thousands of tiny cubic zirconia. Can true love develop between a seventeen year old human and a much older vampire who doesn’t sleep, survives on animal blood (the Cullens are ‘vegetarians’ having given up feeding on humans), and who is prettier than she is? The question requires four novels and five films to answer.

Twilight was one of the biggest films of 2008 as teen and tween girls swooned over the glamorous Edward and his courtly ways, dreaming of a virile young man who would swing them through the trees but who would not touch them in any inappropriate ways. (The fictional excuse being the potential danger to Bella of intimacy with the undead). I can’t say that it’s necessarily a bad view of the world, only an immature one and I can’t imagine it gets much better as the films go along. It’s a universe without shades of gray. Characters are good or evil. Motivations are superficial. Emotions are telegraphed without subtlety.   Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg stays close to Stephenie Meyers’ original novel which may not be a good thing. I tried to read a few pages once but gave up when I realized it read like the diary of a fourteen year old girl.

Director Catherine Hardwicke makes the most of the Pacific Northwest locations. (Coastal Oregon standing in for Forks – it’s much more picturesque. Having been to Forks, I can attest that it’s not terribly attractive.) Twilight has a dreamy gray quality to it and it helps that it was cast with an attractive young group of actors as the Cullen siblings and assorted other vampires. It’s all very easy on the eyes thanks to the cinematography of Elliot Davis. The best performances come from the character actors in relatively minor roles, especially Gil Birmingham as Jacob’s tribal elder father. The central romantic couple is, unfortunately, dishwater dull. Neither Ms. Stewart or Mr. Pattinson has the magnetic screen presence necessary to hold our attention. What could the film have been with a young Audrey Hepburn or Cary Grant?

I think the best thing that I can say about Twilight is that it’s inoffensive and mildly entertaining and any adolescent girls of your acquaintance are likely to love it.

Rainier Beer. Diner eating. Prom dress shopping. Gratuitous fast sports car. Baseball in the rain. Vampire battles. Beach parties. Revenge plots. Uneaten Italian dinner. Multiple graduation caps.

To learn more about the fabulous Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction or go on over and browse her entire back catalogue.

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