Yesterday I checked out a library copy of the movie Twilight with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson and found myself unexpectedly enthralled by the chemistry between Bella and Edward onscreen.  Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I watched anything that had me pausing and rewinding so much so as to catch every expression and nuance.

Confession: I’m kind of out of the pop culture loop now and have been since I quit my job as a youth services librarian to stay home with my son and downscaled my life accordingly.  But I did read Twilight when it came out and found it entertaining but hardly inspirational.  I didn’t go mad for Edward Cullen, and I did not go on to read any of Twilight‘s sequels.  It has not escaped my notice that Stephanie Meyer’s books have become a YA marketing sensation, but I never felt the need to immerse myself in her world again.

I was also only vaguely aware that a movie of the first book was being made.  I wasn’t at the movie theater when it opened, and I didn’t rent it when it first was released on DVD either.  I waited until a library copy became available.  I’d heard there was some mild controversy over the casting of Robert Pattinson, previously only really known for being Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but I was unconcerned.  Really, I only wanted to see how they translated this story visually.  It’s actually nice when you have so little invested because the possibility of being disappointed is so much less.

So imagine my shock when I cued this thing up on my DVD player and found myself completely entranced with what was happening in the little town of Forks, Washington; vampire population: 10.

I suppose I should make a note of my grievances first.  They are few, but not unimportant.  First, this star-crossed lovers’ story is not exactly groundbreaking fiction.  Edward is a vampire who tries not to victimize people but spends much of his time loathing his noble, beautiful (but monstrous) nature.  Bella is the new girl in town and at school who doesn’t fit in and finds herself drawn to the one boy who is the worst possible choice for her in terms of a future together and her present personal safety.  They are inexplicably drawn to each other, sensing in the other a soulmate and therefore ignoring or attempting to sweep away the barriers to a relationship.  Nothing really new there.

Second, the suspense part of Twilight‘s plot is not much more skillfully interwoven with the love story in the movie than it was in the book, and Bella makes the same bone-headed decision to sacrifice herself (completely unnecessarily) at its climax.

And third, clearly this project’s special effects budget was an early casualty of this recession.  Edward’s vampire gifts and talents don’t look real.  When he all but flies up a steep hill, you can almost see the wires.  When he sparkles in the sunlight, it looks more like he fell in a vat of glitter glue than that his skin is glowing.  And occasionally Edward’s blocking, such as that in the Big Reveal, is clumsily done.  The viewer is told that he is amazingly powerful, but despite some evidence, it’s sort of hard to believe.

But, honestly, who cares if he’s not really that scary?  Robert Pattinson’s oddly flat, sharp planed face is the most fascinating thing to watch.  The triangles that make up his eyes, his nose, his cheekbones, shift from equilateral to isosceles to scalene with his changing expressions, and it’s the most interesting geometry lesson ever.  And his chemistry with his costar, Kristen Stewart, is explosive.  They are interesting enough in their scenes with other people, but when they  are onscreen together, the tension and intensity rachets up about 50,000 notches.  You cannot take your eyes off of them.

It wasn’t just that I wanted to watch Edward.  I wanted to watch Bella too.  I wanted to study her expressions.  I wanted to watch her watching him.  The story has a fairly decent-sized cast, and some of the secondary characters are quite enjoyable (I particularly enjoyed Bella’s laconic father), but anyone fades in the background the second these two start interacting.  His obsession and protectiveness; her determination to not be put off by him – this is good stuff.

And when they finally decided to get it on, it’s just, well, WOW.  I don’t think I’ve ever watched an onscreen kiss and actually felt my heartbeat slow and then quicken.  It’s such a slow, slow, deliberate embrace – until it isn’t.  I was shocked at how erotic the scene was when basically they were just kissing for a minute.

Twilight is a romance more than it is a fantasy or a suspense story.  A real romantic romance – lovers divided, coming together, an epic, toss-everything-else-to-the-wind sort of love, and I can’t remember the last time I saw anything on the big screen that effectively invoked that kind of romance magic.  I feel slightly embarrassed writing this – I’m a 38-year-old mom and this is a teenage love story – but there you have it.  I’ve watched numerous key scenes five, six, or seven times because of their emotional impact, and I haven’t been this familiar with the rewind button since I watched Anne of Avonlea as a teenager and swooned over Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley’s interrupted love.

Again, WOW.

— Rachel Potter