If you know me, you’ll know that it takes a hell of a movie to get me actually to fork over the money it takes to to go the theatre these days. When Disney announced that they were producing a live action version of their 1991 animated classic, Beauty and the Beast, I initially wasn’t sure if it would make the cut for me to see it in the theatre upon its release.
In the end, my inner child won out, and we went to see it this past weekend. And boy, am I glad we did! In a word, it was exquisite. Positively enchanting, pun intended.
As I often do when watching films for the first time, I avoided too many reviews. There was no need to avoid spoilers in this instance, however, I generally do not want my opinion being pre-tainted, as it were, by what the professional critics have to say.
Dear Husband informs me that some were critical of Disney for not adding anything new to the story. But, to that I say, first of all this is a retelling of a classic, so why would you expect much new? But secondly, there actually was a lot new added.
For one, this film actually gave us some meatier backstories to both Belle and the Prince. We find out more about Belle’s mother, and how and she and her father came to their provincial little life. We also find out how the Prince came to have his entitled, snobbish attitude. Additionally, we get to know the castle characters much more deeply. In the original film, we don’t get to see much more than Lumiere and Cogsworth’s witty banter, and Mrs. Potts doting on her son Chip. But this new film explores the various side characters with a much more satisfying depth.
The acting, while not Oscar-worthy, was certainly better than I came in hoping it would be. Emma Watson positively shone as Belle, and I am pleased to announce that her acting skills have improved significantly since her Harry Potter days. Luke Evans pulled off a fantastic Gaston, as he really nailed the character’s unending narcissism and territorial nature. I had never heard of Dan Stevens prior to seeing him play the Beast, and I would say he did a passable job, though it was difficult to gauge the full extent of his acting skills given the CGI-heavy nature of his role.
Where the movie truly excelled was in the perfectly executed choreography and breathtaking scenery. From scene to scene, the pacing was on point, and I felt myself being swept away in mid-18th century provincial France. Speaking of the time period, I greatly appreciate that Disney removed some anachronisms that had been present in the 1991 animated film. For example, the Eiffel tower did not begin construction until the late 1800s, so I was much relieved that they removed it from the one scene in this new film that took place in Paris.
I am not an expert of any kind when it comes to period costumes, hairstyles, and jewelry, however, I did wonder if some of Belle’s jewelry was out of place historically. During the famous ballroom scene, Emma Watson’s character is wearing a large ear cuff that wraps around her ear and goes into it. While gorgeous, it did immediately take me out of the moment and give me pause to wonder if ear cuffs were popular in France at that period. (My cursory research on the matter leaves the answer unresolved.)
Regardless of whether the jewelry was anachronistic, every single thing about this film was visually stunning. My only real complaint about the movie was the horrendous auto-tuning done to Emma Watson’s singing. I recognize that she is not a singer, but good God, someone went heavy on the auto-tuning.
Finally, I would be remiss to write a review of this film without at least acknowledging the recent hubbub about its featured diversity. If you’ve not heard, Malaysia have banned the film due to it containing an openly gay character. While Josh Gad’s Le Fou is certainly gay if you are intentionally looking for it, I would hardly call it anything more than subtle. Dear Husband and I both agreed afterwards that we might not have even noticed it at all until the very end scene, in which he is seen grabbing a male dance partner.
In addition to Le Fou being gay, the film also features a racially diverse cast, including, among others, the inimitable Audra McDonald as the Prince’s principle singer (who gets turned into a wardrobe when the castle and its inhabitants are cursed). While I cannot speak to the historical accuracy of these features, I absolutely love that Disney insisted on a prominent gay character, a black woman in an aristocratic position, and numerous interracial couples.
All in all, it was a fabulous film, and one I plan to own once it is released for home viewing. Tell me, have you seen the new Beauty and the Beast film? If so, what did you think?
Until next time,