- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 05 April 2017
- Written by COURTNEY BUELL | CLUB AND GREEK EDITOR
Disney’s live action remake of Beauty and the Beast is both a visual spectacle, and a treat for fans of the original. The film is true to its animated predecessor, follows the storyline of the animated film almost scene for scene, and contains just the right amount of nostalgia and Disney magic.
While Beauty and the Beast stays almost identical to the original, both visually and narratively, Director Bill Condon manages to incorporate some modern concepts while simultaneously keeping the whimsical, old-fashioned camp of musicals that one would have seen in the 1960s. Belle (Emma Watson) is still a non-conformist in her small village, and yearns for adventure and excitement in ‘the great wide somewhere.’
Watson’s Belle contributes a much quirkier and low maintenance nature to the role. She tucks her skirt into her waist to reveal her bloomers, and is generally aloof and unimpressed by Gaston’s (Luke Evans) advances through her walk about town.
It can be argued that Watson’s Belle is intended to be an individual and a feminist. She refuses to be degraded and objectified by both Gaston and the villagers and depends on her own resourcefulness and wit to seek out her missing father. She shrugs off being mocked by the villagers in her town for teaching children to read and building her own washing machine.
Despite these strong characteristics, what looks to be a female heroine who is smart, inventive and confident at the start of the film loses its conviction once she enters the castle. Despite refusing to be bullied or talked down to by the Beast, Belle’s performance becomes nearly stagnant and one-dimensional. This would have been a great opportunity to see more character development. Writers Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos could have adopted a more modern approach to telling the story of a Disney princess who can be independent and heroic.
Out of all of the characters in the film, it is the Beast (Dan Stevens) that stays truest to the animated character. He is both brooding and wounded, but possesses a sensitivity and tenderness that has the potential to leave audience members hoping for his curse to be broken to relieve his pain. Stevens is incredibly convincing as the Beast, and despite his transformation as the Beast mostly being compiled through CGI and motion capture puppeteering, it cannot be denied that the piercing and fiercely emotional blue eyes of the Beast are his. They add an element of humanity and vulnerability that gives the beast his human likeness.
While establishing realistic chemistry between a man with a buffalo’s head and a teenage girl seems like no easy feat for a live action film; the two share an intimacy that is both innocent and tasteful. Their relationship is founded on their mutual understanding of what it is like to be an outsider, and their sympathy for others is ultimately what bonds them together.
From the moment Belle enters the castle, the living furniture make numerous appearances. While the effects are believable and aesthetically pleasing, and the characters are full of life despite their current form as fixtures, the film misses the mark.
While the intention was no doubt to bring a sense of magic and enchantment to the castle, the hyper realistic talking furniture can sometimes be more frightening and off-putting than cute, fun and friendly. This is something one can only imagine comes from trying to put animated talking clocks, candelabras, and wardrobes in a realistic setting.
Sir Ian McKellan and Ewan McGregor do justice to the roles of Cogsworth and Lumiere, especially in ‘Be Our Guest.’ The production quality overall is beautiful, and contributes to the charm of Belle’s world.
The film has some great musical moments, thanks to composer Alan Menken. The original soundtrack is included in it, as well as some new songs from both Belle and the Beast. These songs don’t do much for the film and are easily forgettable. While refreshing, they don’t really stand out from the classic songs from the animated original.
While both Beauty and the Beast occupy their roles well, Gaston is the breakout role of the film. He completely adopts the swagger, confidence, and bravado of the animated character, and further adds dimension to the role. His performance could stand up against a Broadway performance, and in numbers such as “Gaston” and “Kill the Beast”, he brings a level of professionalism and theatrical emotion to a musical that it badly needs.
These numbers nod to the ferocity in choreography and performance in Broadway showstoppers such as Les Miserables or Newsies. Josh Gad’s LeFou compliments Gaston very well, and increases the talent caliber of these musical numbers with his presence. His humor and colorful character lighten the mood often throughout the film.
What seems to be a topic of controversy about the film is LeFou’s openly gay orientation in the film. This is a non-issue because it is so subtle one may not even catch it unless they’ve been told. The scene in question is tasteful and innocent, and handles the subject maturely and respectfully, much like the rest of the film. This scene and character is definitely a step in the right direction to promote inclusivity and acceptance in Disney films and in life.
It is to be expected that some may not approve, but ultimately one can argue that for anyone who has an issue with two men ballroom dancing together at a wedding probably shouldn’t see a film about the relationship between an animal and a teenage girl. It sensibly approaches the issue of accepting people who are different, refraining from labeling someone as ‘the other,’ and choosing to look past someone’s looks or qualities and to get to know them better.
True to the animated classic, Belle knows more than anyone not to judge a book by its cover, and channels that philosophy into her lifestyle. The film also relies on the concept that everyone deserves a second chance, and an opportunity for redemption and a happy life. While these messages are important and complex, the way in which they are conveyed are not.
Beauty and the Beast is an energizing film that brings an element of innocence and joy to audience members who are looking for it. It shouldn’t be taken seriously, and it is a fun and adventurous film for people of all ages. The film is on course to making $180 billion in ticket sales worldwide, and was a box office hit in its first week. It is definitely the film to see for those looking for mindless entertainment. For anyone in the mood to have their spirits lifted, or feel nostalgic about their childhood, Beauty and the Beast invites you to ‘be their guest’.
IMAGE TAKEN from wallpapercave.com