Why is Twilight Such Crack For Girls?

We were able to get into a screening for Twilight on Tuesday night. Anticipation for this film, based on the blockbuster series by Stephanie Meyer, has reached a frenzy that words really can’t quite convey. On Tuesday there was a line that wound round the block, and women who seemed, um, older than we would have expected were begging for extra tickets over at the press line. The movie – about a young and clumsy girl named Bella (Kristen Stewart) who falls hard for a vampire named Edward (Rob Pattinson) – is incredibly faithful to the book. We’d guess that a good chunk of the screening audience knew exactly what was coming next, but it didn’t stop various whistles and cheers as favorite characters appeared onscreen, and when Mr. Pattinson showed up in all his lanky glory, there was an audible swoon.

Casting this role was incredibly important. And Mr. Pattinson seems something dreamed up by the Hollywood gods as the perfect actor for this role. Those brooding, heavily browed eyes! That sensitive mouth! That giant head of McDreamy-like hair! The following day at the Australia screening, we got to talking with a woman we had never met before who had also been to Twilight. “It’s the funniest thing,” she said. “Before I saw the movie, I was all, Rob Pattinson whatever. But now … I just can’t stop thinking about him!” Exactly.

So what is it about this Edward/Pattinson character that has all us grown-up girls in such a swoon anyway? It’s more than the actor’s devastating looks. It’s the character of Edward, more than anything else (we don’t remember anyone asking Mr. Pattinson to bite them when he played poor, doomed Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). We have a few theories!

We can’t speak for all of our sex, of course, but there’s the irresistible masochism of Edward’s alternately cold and attentive behavior to Bella when they first meet (hey, it’s worked for plenty of Manhattan men, too). “If you were smart, you’d stay away from me,” Edward says. “I can see what you are trying to put off,” she replies. “I can see that it’s just to keep people away from you. It’s a mask.” Oh, Bella. Come talk to us in 15 years.

Then there’s the fact that after Bella has discovered his deepest secret, she learns that even though he may drink blood, he stays away from humans. Though, in fact, it’s her particular scent that draws him to her. Kristen Stewart is a beauty, but in an attainable, recognizable, small-town way that makes it all the more heady that she’d get singled out by the mysterious hot guy at school.

They can’t have sex, though they both (really) want to. Wrap your head around the implications of that! Instead, Edward just wants to protect her. He watches over her. He will do anything to keep her from harm. He promises to never leave. He picks her up and dances with her while she rests her feet on his, a dizzying mix of daddy issues onscreen if ever we saw them.

Director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) does an admirable job keeping these high-school kids acting their age. No Blair or Serena witty toss-offs for the teens of Twilight! Bella seems to be strangling on her words half the time, and constantly fighting off embarrassment. Everything is awkward. And everything feels like life or death–this is a movie about vampires, after all!–which reminds us why the life and death drama of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer were so much more fun than the ones enacted every day in the halls.

Why is Twilight Such Crack For Girls?