If the droolingly awaited big-screen version of Twilight is any indication, sanpaku eyes are the new cheekbones. Marilyn Monroe and JFK both had sexy sanpakus (in which the white of the orb is strikingly visible below the iris), and so does Robert Pattinson, the young British heartthrob who plays Edward Cullen, Twilight‘s dreamy, sculpted hunk of a teenage vampire. With pasty skin, red lips, and those peepers that pop open wide with a touch of madness, Pattinson has a look so broodingly unearthly it’s no wonder he doesn’t sprout fangs. His creepy bedroom stare is a special effect all its own.

Here, as in Stephenie Meyer’s 2005 novel, Edward is Romeo, Heathcliff, James Dean, and Brad Pitt all rolled into one: a scruffy-gorgeous bloodsucker pinup who is really an angelic protector. When Bella (Kristen Stewart), who has come to Forks, Wash., to live with her police-chief dad, sits next to Edward in biology class, he acts like he’s suffering a seizure (or an attack of bad Mexican food). But it’s only because he can barely control himself around her. It’s no surprise that Bella tunes out the other kids, even as they try to befriend her. They don’t make her tingle with the fear of her own desire. Edward, like any good vampire, has a predatory glamour. As Bella gets to know him, what’s irresistible to her is that he promises not a blood consummation but its very opposite: a refusal to give in to the hunger that tempts him most.

For girls, the intense, ego-stroking appeal of Meyer’s novel was the way that Bella becomes this undead Byronic stud’s soul mate without quite knowing why she’s worthy. She’s a Kewl Generation damsel waiting to be rescued from her jaded heart. Stewart is an ideal casting choice — she conveys Bella’s detachment, as well as her need to bust through it. And getting Catherine Hardwicke to direct Twilight was a shrewd move, because the youthquake specialist of Thirteen treats teen confusion without a trace of condescension: She gets their grand passions and prickly defense mechanisms. She has reconjured Meyer’s novel as a cloudburst mood piece filled with stormy skies, rippling hormones, and understated visual effects. What Hardwicke can’t quite triumph over is the book’s lackluster plot. On screen, Twilight is repetitive and a tad sodden, too prosaic to really soar. But Hardwicke stirs this teen pulp to a pleasing simmer. B

Robert Pattinson talks about Twilight

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