I didn’t need a strict press-screening policy — no hand-held devices with recording capabilities of any kind were allowed in the theater — to understand that the sacred purity of Twilight must not be corrupted.
Adapted from Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling novel, which contains trace elements of Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, plus a few archetypally ancient supernatural overtones, Twilight is billed as “a modern-day love story between a vampire and a human,” and not to be confused with Let the Right One In, the novel-based modern-day love story between a vampire and a human set in Sweden, or True Blood, the novel-based modern-day love story between a vampire and a human set in Louisiana.
Twilight’s the one set in rural Washington, with Edward (Robert Pattinson) the vampire and Bella (Kristen Stewart) the human. It’s the one with the sudsy tortured-teen dramatics, with characters often yearning and gazing and moving in slow motion, or staying still but having the camera move slowly around them while they steep in pale blue light and breathy, generic power-pop. (Or, during the closing credits, in pale black and white and Radiohead.) Obviously a rare and precious piece of intellectual property, indeed.
The truth is that even with help from my stealth hand-held recording device, a notebook, I couldn’t make much of it out.
For this fact, it should be easy to blame director Catherine Hardwicke’s habit of narrative clunkery. Having honed her rapport with transgressive-curious shy girls and ruby-lipped pretty boys in Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown, respectively, Hardwicke has no trouble fetishizing the forever young. But in qualifying herself for Twilight, she seems also to have let her basic scene-building skills become stunted. (That said, hell if I know how exactly one should direct a scene of vampires playing baseball.) And screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, veteran of Dexter and The O.C., brings only a vague, unchallenging TVishness.
But none of this is why I missed some of Twilight’s finer nuances. The real reason, which should come as no surprise, was the audience full of screaming teen girls. They were loud, and numerous, and all-powerful. And you must understand, as you here endure yet another comment on the screaming girls of Twilight fandom, that a) yes, it probably is the most important thing about this movie and b) social phenomena are as hard for journalists to resist as fresh-smelling humans are for vampires.
For a while there, it seemed like every time a hot guy showed up on the screen, particularly the impressively coiffed Edward and the shiny-toothed Jacob (Taylor Launtner), his apparent rival for Bella’s affection, the audience would issue a shrill, concussive wave of rhapsody. Or, whenever Edward told Bella something like, “I don’t have the strength to stay away from you anymore,” it would be a crescendo of cooing. They liked him leaping between the uppermost branches of the evergreens with Bella on his back, or playing the piano for her in a room decorated only by slanting shafts of light, too.
Maybe they’ll soon be writing reports about Twilight as an allegory of abstinence and anticipation. I’ll at least have gotten the main point about how hard it is for him not to eat her.