Girl meets vampire. Girl loves vampire. Girl and vampire go to the Prom ... Peter Bradshaw enjoys this unorthodox but sweet and satirical take on the teen vampire movie

Peter Bradshaw

 The Guardian, Friday 19 December 2008

Let's be honest. Which of us, in our impressionable teenage years, has not displaced an irrational horror of sex into a freaky emo crush on a moody vampire with sky-high cheekbones and a taste for human blood? I mean, haven't we all - in a very real sense?

Since her celebrated 2003 film Thirteen, director Catherine Hardwicke has accumulated some expertise in the dark side of adolescence and puts it to good use in this wildly enjoyable new film, an adaptation of the bestselling young-adult novel by Stephenie Meyer. Twilight is mad, bad and deeply unwholesome to know, and perhaps, in its serious way, the most entertaining teen film since 10 Things I Hate About You. It is certainly a new twist on the time-honoured nice-girl-bad-boy storyline. Virginal lovelies from the right side of the tracks have been conceiving the hots for unsuitable guys since Olivia Newton-John in Grease, Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing and Claire Danes in TV's My So-Called Life. But this is something else: an outrageous story of young love played absolutely straight, and actually better and more convincingly acted than many of the ponderous grown-up "relationship" movies we have to sit through. It sports with the high school genre and America's pro-abstinence True Love Waits movement. But it's got something other than satire on its mind.

Kirsten Stewart plays Bella, a winningly pale girl who is the child of a broken home: she has been living with her divorced mom in Phoenix, Arizona, but now proposes to live with dad, a police chief in a small northwestern town near a snowy landscape which vampire connoisseurs will instantly notice is a little reminiscent of the Carpathian mountains of Transylvania. (I am incidentally waiting for a post-modern vampire story to pay homage to Dracula's relationship with Yorkshire.)

Bella shows up for her first day at her new school and instantly establishes herself as a bit of a klutz, but not outrageously so, and she is certainly enough of a babe to get plenty of acceptable-looking guys to want to make friends. But it is Bella's destiny not to be attracted to these nice, normal people and, near the movie's climax, we see her looking poignantly from the window of a speeding car at these very same nice, normal people emerging from a diner, a veritable tableau of the nice, safe normality that could have been hers.

For Bella is instantly attracted to a gaunt and charismatic hottie called Edward Cullen, played by the young British star Robert Pattinson. Edward is one of a super-cool bunch of standoffish kids who seem to have dark hair, pale skin and a very great aversion to sunshine. Edward spends a good deal of his time looking at Bella intensely, up through his eyelashes, as if in homage to Princess Diana. Pretty soon Edward is using what appear to be superpowers to save Bella from various scrapes - and then he confesses his feelings for her and the truth about himself. Edward is undead, from a family of semi-nice vampires who live in the forest, and who have vowed to be "vegetarians" - that is, live only on animal flesh.

Edward and Bella are in agonies. However much he wants to give in to his feelings for Bella in the bedroom department - and however much Bella wants him to - he cannot, because he will become, ahem, carried away. The quaint niceties of conventional penetrative sex will not be sufficient. In the heat of the moment, Edward will need some old-school neck munching and blood slurping and he will therefore condemn Bella to an eternity in the vampire's twilight - and he, of course, loves her too much for that. Edward shows up in Bella's bedroom and they try a little innocent making out before Edward has to wrench himself away, mastering himself with as much virile self-control as a 19th-century curate. Edward is enough of a gentleman to take Bella to the prom, traditionally the venue at which America's young women decide to surrender their virginity to some profoundly unworthy suitor. They smooch a little on the dancefloor, but then he inclines his teeth towards her ivory throat, before whispering a question with infinite gentleness: is she ready?

Of course, all this parodies conservative America's preoccupation with Just Saying No - but it also, in a strange and unexpected way, responds to the Just Say Yes movement. When anything and everything is sexualised in the media, when women and women's bodies are obsessively presented in sexual terms, then what happens if you don't fit in? To many intelligent young people, the world of the sexually active may indeed seem like an unlovely vampiric cult. Is there any romance, any fervency, any rapture at all that has nothing to do with any of this commercially determined sexiness?

Twilight offers its own uproariously weird and engaging answer. It is, in its unworldly way, sweetly idealistic with a charm all of its own: a teen romance to get your teeth into.

agonies: agony – cierpienie

ahem – hm

carried away: to be carried away – dać się ponieść 

climax – punkt kulminacyjny

conceive – począć, zacząć; wyobrażać sobie

condemn – potepiać, skazywać

connoisseur – koneser, znawca

convincingly – przekonująco

crush – zadurzenie, pociąg

curate – wikary

displace – zastępować; wypierać

fervency – żar

freaky – dziwaczny, nienaturalny

gaunt – wychudzony, mizerny

hots: to have the hots for somebody – czuć do kogoś pociąg

hottie – osoba atrakcyjna fizycznie

impressionable – łatwowierny; wrażliwy

incline – nachylać, przekrzywiać

ivory – w kolorze kości słoniowej

klutz – oferma, fajtłapa

munching – chrupanie

poignantly – gorzko; przejmująco

ponderous – ociężały, niezgrabny

profoundly – głęboko

quaint – osobliwy, niezwykły

rapture – zachwyt, uniesienie

reminiscent of – przypominający (coś, kogoś)

scrape – tarapaty

slurping – chłeptanie, siorbanie

smooch – pieścić, przytulać

standoffish – nieprzystępny, pełen rezerwy

suitor – pretendent do ręki kobiety

tableau – żywy obraz 

unwholesome – niezdrowy

uproariously – hałaśliwie, hucznie

venue – miejsce

veritable – prawdziwy, istny

virile – męski

winningly – ujmująco

wrench oneself away – uwalniać się, szarpać się

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