Twilight Review: Swooningly True to the Book

The film of vampire romance Twilight is swooningly true to the book

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Edward (Pattinson) moves on Bella (Stewart) for the kill — sorry, the kiss

You needn't read Twilight, stephenie Meyer's best seller, to know where its secret pulses reside. Just see the movie version and listen to the reactions of the girls in the theater. There's an audible shiver as they first spy the teen vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), his impossibly gorgeous face caked in a mime's pallor, sitting in biology class next to young Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart). When he holds an apple in his hands to present to her--the novel's cover image--the girls emit an awestruck sigh, as if they'd just seen Zac Efron in the flesh or a puppy on YouTube. And when he tells Bella, "So the lion fell in love with the lamb," you hear applause, the imprimatur of Meyer's young connoisseurs. To judge from a preview screening, Twilight the movie is their dream of the book projected 30 feet high.

Kids have already made this love saga a multimedia sensation, with 17 million copies of the Twilight tetralogy in print and with the CD of the movie sound track at No. 1 on Billboard's chart. Could this be a Harry Potter--like pancultural behemoth?

Maybe not; the Potter films are superproductions costing in the hundred millions, while the much more intimate Twilight, directed by Catherine Hardwicke from Melissa Rosenberg's script, has a low-medium budget (less than $40 million) and an artless indie vibe. But just as J.K. Rowling cannily fed tween readers' innocent lust for adventure, so Meyer smites their slightly older sisters with the adventure of innocent lust. And when the teen witches and wizards of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth film in the series, vacated the prime slot of the weekend before Thanksgiving for a July 2009 opening, the vampires of Twilight moved in. It sounds like kismet, Hollywood-style.

Vamping till Ready

Is it destiny that links Bella to edward? That's what she feels shortly after she leaves desert-dry Phoenix, where her mother has just married a semipro baseball player, to spend time with her police-chief father (Billy Burke) in rainy, misty Forks, Wash. Bella calls herself "the suffering-in-silence type," but instantly all the nice kids in her junior class are clamoring to be her BFF. Not so Edward. His pained, brooding, utterly irresistible gaze says, I have depths you don't want to dive in. After sitting next to Bella once, he has to take some sick days. It's soon evident that he is fighting his fascination for her with all the strength that she is applying to getting close to him.

The word among the local Native Americans (who in movies like this are never wrong) is that Edward and his family are vampires. That doesn't stop Bella from falling into a love whose toxicity is its lure, just as Edward is risking being with someone he's severely tempted to devour. Her nearness is like vampire heroin; his love for her has become his religion and his sin. Edward knows he should just say no, but, as he tells her, "I don't have the strength to stay away from you anymore."

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