Many will know Catherine Hardwicke as the director who kickstarted the Twilight franchise on the big screen 10 years ago. Despite the gargantuan financial success of the vampire series, it has been a long time since the filmmaker tackled anything remotely resembling a fantasy film. Nevertheless, Hardwicke has certainly been revving up for more otherworldly projects of late.
First came news of The Raven Cycle, Syfy’s television adaptation of Maggie Stiefvater’s bestselling book series. That received a pilot order in April 2017. Hardwicke joined the project as both executive producer and director, with Andrew Miller (The Secret Circle) serving as showrunner.
Now, Hardwicke is already primed to add yet another YA property to her list of burgeoning projects. As Deadline reports, she will bring Erica O’Rourke’s novel “Dissonance” to life. Directing from a screenplay by Laggies scribe Andrea Seigel, Hardwicke will dive into a sprawling narrative set in an extensive universe covering a plethora of parallel worlds, grandly intersecting fantasy, sci-fi, and romance.
At the center of Dissonance is Del, a being known as a Walker who has the ability to traverse alternate realities. In fact, she is specifically undergoing training to maintain harmony between the numerous dimensions in existence. However, when curiosity gets the better of Del and she begins investigating various cacophonous worlds on her own, some secrets begin to unfurl. First, there’s the YA staple of a forbidden romance that throws her life into a whirlwind. More importantly, a hidden truth puts the entire multiverse as Del knows it at risk.
Already, Dissonance sounds very much aligned with the conceits of Twilight and even The Raven Cycle. In each of the three, female protagonists must navigate the throes of growing up amid the chaos of life-altering events, all of which include a boy that they inevitably fall in love with.
In particular and perhaps most distinctly, Dissonance exhibits an intense ambition with its mythology, which is definitely one of the best aspects of the book as a whole. O’Rourke builds a richly layered and practically cinematic environment that’s easy to immerse in and perfect for an onscreen adaptation.
Nonetheless – and possibly most controversially – we must contend with the thorny subject of young love. Granted, not all love stories in the YA genre are bound to be terrible, but many of them play out inorganically or just aren’t very compelling. And unfortunately, that’s exactly what Dissonance suffers from. Del has a less-than-riveting love interest who is difficult to remain invested in.
Still, I’m not writing off Hardwicke’s ability to translate this narrative from page to screen. Besides the romance, there are several family and friendship dynamics for her to explore. Plus, the aforementioned world-building provides plenty for Hardwicke to unpack and explicate.
All in all, there is already more for her to work from compared to what was available in Twilight, which Hardwicke did a fine job in crafting — especially when stacked against the rest of the movies in the franchise. Most of my own issues with the movie stem from problems that derive from Meyer’s original text and weak characterization, anyway. Hardwicke took an admittedly ridiculous story and managed to showcase the Bella and Edward dynamic at its least cringey.
Whether you rejoice or recoil at the mention of the Twilight saga doesn’t dull the fact that its first movie grossed $393.6 million at the worldwide box office either. Hardwicke broke records for a female filmmaker at the time.
However, she retreated from the spotlight after the movie. This would have been baffling if not for the fact that Hardwicke faced several roadblocks in Hollywood post-Twilight, regardless of the splashy breakthrough that pulled her from the indie film scene.
“At the time I didn’t understand when [sources who called Hardwicke ‘irrational’] were dinging me for being whatever, emotional or difficult. Yet they’re praising all the male directors I’ve worked for for being passionate and visionary and sticking to their guns, fighting for what they want. But a woman is emotional, difficult, bitchy, whatever. I didn’t know those code words and I didn’t know they were used pervasively, and so I just took them personally.”
Hardwicke’s proper return has definitely been a slow burn since. Her Twilight follow-up would only come three years later with Red Riding Hood, which sadly ended up being a horrific take on the “Little Red Riding Hood” tale in every sense of the word. There was too much overacting and not enough plot to compensate. Plush almost takes Hardwicke back to the rawness that defined her striking directorial debut Thirteen, as it is equally emotionally driven if aesthetically more zealous, but it’s ultimately narratively messy and unsatisfying.
Thankfully, Hardwicke came back stronger than ever with Miss You Already, a softer and sweeter film that lets its female stars shine the brightest. This is the Thirteen comeback that doesn’t scrimp on the melodrama while also seeming authentic thanks to beguiling performances by Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette.
Hardwicke is a gem of a drama director. That much is undisputed. But she seems more determined than ever to make YA work for her and if she brings her signature empathetic filmmaking to these larger-than-life worlds, she could succeed. It’s time that one (or ideally all) of Hardwicke’s YA projects panned out favorably, and we’re hoping Dissonance is the one.