Combustible Celluloid
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With: Rachel Weisz, Susan Lynch, Iain Glen, Maurice Roeves, Alex Norton
Written by: Simon Donald
Directed by: Bill Eagles
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and sexuality, drug use and language
Running Time: 108
Date: 08/23/2000

Beautiful Creatures (2001)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Pathological Princesses

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Beautiful Creatures is a fun, Bound-like off-kilter psycho-dance that contrasts gorgeous female bodies with bloody, dead male ones. It's not a thoughtful movie, or even a very original one. But it squeaks by with high spirits and goofy energy. Susan Lynch stars as Dorothy, a put-upon woman with a jerk for a boyfriend. She arrives home to find her apartment ransacked and her big fluffy white dog painted red. On her way out of town, she happens upon another abusive fellow, Brian (Tom Mannion), delivering a beating to his girlfriend Petula (Rachel Weisz) in a dark alley. Fed up, Dorothy picks up a ludicrously long pipe and whacks the guy on the cranium. Although they've never met, Dorothy and Petula have now become partners in crime. Since Petula still works for Brian's older brother Ronnie (Maurice Roeves), a dangerous gangster, the women cook up a phony kidnapping plot to throw suspicions off themselves, and to raise a little cash on the side. At the same time, a sideways-looking detective (Alex Norton) lands on their trail.

The plot is far from airtight. After Brian's death, the two women sit around, smoke some pot, and get to know each other a bit. Dorothy offers to cut Petula's long blonde hair. This scene is so conspicuous, you can't help but think that it will come back to haunt them at some point, because it establishes that the two women were together on that fateful night. But no one even seems to notice that Petula's hair is shorter. Nevertheless, the film packs a few surprises and a few genuinely funny moments. The poor pink dog (played by a pup named Pluto) provides a few chuckles, and any lowly, dumb men who swoon for the lovely ladies find themselves seriously compromised.

Weisz, on her way to becoming a big star with her roles in The Mummy films, provides a wonderfully centered humor for her character, who at first seems like a bimbo bleach-blonde. But over the course of the film, her wit and sharpness emerge. In one scene, the women improvise a call from the "kidnappers" in front of the detective. Petula suddenly becomes a savvy negotiator, improvising phony information with the detective staring at her. It's a surprising and welcome change.

Beautiful Creatures tentatively explores that strange relationship between women and violent men. In a way, the movie celebrates a small victory over that hopeless situation in which a woman suffers from an inferiority complex and feels she deserves violent attention from her man. But thanks to their crime spree, Dorothy and Petula develop their own self-esteem, and by the ending, we're convinced that they're cured forever.

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