J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Fallen: The Paranormal Teen Melodrama

Teen girls buy a lot of books. Teen boys not so much. That is why so many of my long-suffering colleagues had to endure five Twilight movies. Lauren Kate’s marquee series could easily be considered Twilight with fallen angels instead of vampires. Despite its bestselling credentials, Hollywood clearly did not know what to make of it. Before production even began, the studio that originally optioned the whole shebang backed out. Yet, the producers persevered. Once again, a group of immortals chooses to mope through eternity as boring teenagers in Scott Hicks’ Fallen (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

When Lucifer rebelled in Heaven, one angel refused to choose sides. Instead of good or evil, he would only fight for “love,” in the most brooding, Byronic sense. As a result, he was cast down to Earth, along with the other angelic fence-sitters. There, his New Agey commitment to love would find a human focus. Sadly, that spiteful old Lucifer cursed the lovers. Every seventeen years, she will be reborn and they will fall in love anew, at which point she cruelly dies, restarting the cycle yet again.

Lucinda “Luce” Price is that girl. She has just transferred to the Sword and Cross boarding school for rich and troubled pupils. Price would be the latter. All her life she has had strange visions. As soon as she lays eyes on the sensitive delinquent Daniel Grigori she feels like she knows him from someplace. Of course, he is the Byronic angel, but he tries to play it cool this time around. In fact, things might turn out differently, because Price was never baptized in this life. That also means she could be in big danger from you-know-who.

Why in the world a band of undying fallen angels would lay about a remedial boarding school is a real puzzler. It is especially baffling since most of them look too old to be teenagers. You’d think they’d just move to New York and hang out in clubs like Limelight.

As was the case with Twilight, the quality of the starting line-up leaves something to be desired. To be fair, Addison Timlin does decent work as Price and Lola Kirke is quite engaging as her oblivious human friend Penn Van Syckle-Lockwood. However, Jeremy Irvine and Harrison Gilbertson are both dreadful as the bad boy Grigori and the even badder boy, Cameron Briel. Not surprisingly, the class of the field is Joely Richardson, elegantly chewing the scenery as Sophia Bliss, comparative religion teacher and human partisan in the ongoing angelic war.

It is enormously depressing to remember Hicks directed Geoffrey Rush’s Oscar performance in Shine and helmed the well-regarded documentary Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts. He does his best spruce up the film with some visual panache, but it cannot cover-up all the film’s shortcomings. Don’t expect much closure either. Fallen was clearly conceived as the start of a film franchise, but its future is definitely in doubt. At least it is highly watchable, but not in the way the producers intended. Basically, you have Stilton, Limburger, and this film. Way too silly to recommend, Fallen opens this Friday (9/8) in Los Angeles, at the Laemmle Royal.

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