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Twilight

Girl swoons for vampire, in this neo-gothic teen romance.

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True love waits: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson
  • True love waits: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson

In the always ... uh ... lively world of Undead Entertainment, this is prime time for vampires, particularly those who are more lovers than fighters. (Somewhere, lots of angry zombies shuffle to the unemployment line.) HBO is running a vampire series, True Blood, and bookshelves groan with paperbacks heralding the forbidden dance between the living and the fanged. Supreme among these tomes are the novels of Stephenie Meyer, and now the first book of her teen-vampire series, Twilight, gets its big-screen adaptation from director Catherine Hardwicke.

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves to a small Washington town and finds herself drawn to her curious classmate, the pale, moody Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Edward is all cheekbones, porcelain skin and moony eyes, a veritable Byron in blue jeans.

A few weird events later, the brainy Bella realizes that Edward is a vampire, and despite (or perhaps because of) this alarming detail, she's also hopelessly in love. Edward responds in kind and in confidence, relating how heartbreakingly delicious she smells, how tortured he is.

But their romance is complicated by Edward's family (which is, he explains, "vegetarian," feeding only on animal blood); some roving bloodsuckers who are eating the locals; and by the heightened torments of teen love. These two kids have real issues around "going all the way": Bella loves Edward so much that she's willing to join him in his eternal adolescence. But Edward loves Bella so much that he can't bear to subject her to vampiric agony, even though consummating their union would make them 2-gether 4-ever.

I'm not the target audience for this film -- I haven't read the books, and I'm nearly as old as some of these never-die vampires. Yet, I found Twilight to be quite engaging and a step up from the usual generic teen romances. I liked its melancholy tone, and how it managed to walk a tricky line between laughably silly subject matter and believably serious delivery.

It helps too that Twilight can be easily read (or, for still-forming teens, intuited) as a larger metaphor for adolescence, with all its identity confusion, fears and tantalizing nearness of dangerous adult pleasures. This is familiar turf for Hardwicke, who broke out in 2003 with the neglected-teen drama Thirteen, followed by The Lords of Dogtown (discarded teen skaters) and The Nativity Story (ostracized teen gives birth to Messiah).

Adolescence is tough, but it can be especially harrowing and lonely for outsiders, like nerdy new girl Bella or the inescapably weird Edward. But take heart: Even the worst trials -- and Twilight ends with some resolved and several pending -- are best met with a fellow traveler. Edward and Bella stand strong as soul mates, even if one of them is technically missing a soul.

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