My Take on the New Beauty & The Beast Film

I recently saw the new Beauty & the Beast live-action movie. There were so many good things to this movie and what’s not to love about Emma Watson? I grew up watching the Disney animated film version over and over again and it showed me the glory of being a free-thinker with a great big mind, even in a small town.

Illustration courtesy of Julia Yoon

The story follows a young woman, Belle, who lives with her tinker father in a small provincial town in France. She spends her time feeding animals, reading books and imagining romantic adventures, amid a hustle and bustle local life. Lives full of survival and daily life, the people watch her with perplexity and wonder at how she is the way she is, when life is so difficult.  Yet, her choice to see what is beneath the surface or out of the range of daily vision will serve to save the day in the end, as a kingdom is resurrected and saved from a long-held curse.  The story will always be one of my most favorites; now, here are a few of my thoughts on this film.

 

Illustration courtesy of Julia Yoon

There were so many sweet things to this film, but one my favorite things is that it does a nice job finishing, or rather clarifying, the story of Belle’s mother and father.  It sheds a little light on what was held in the shadows of the animated movie, revealing why the mother was not in the picture and a greater perspective on the father, who turns out to be more than just a tinker.  The film also unveils a super interesting spin on visual effects in the portrayals of the characters of the cursed castle, such as Lumière and Cogsworth.  I also felt that the casting of Josh Gad as LeFou was absolutely on point – he was truly the comic relief of the film.  Watching the cast sing and dance was truly like watching a grand theatrical production with many amazing singers, dancers and fine actors; but still something left me untouched like I had been so many times with its animated Disney original.

With all the great things, there are a few things that I must say in critique of this film.  First, this film clearly spent a lot of energy on visual effects, which was a fun twist, but it felt a little generated, rigid and unfeeling at times when it came to emotional depth. It was akin to the difference between seeing a painting done in person versus by someone in a dark room from a photo.  With Emma Watson’s amazing beauty, track-record in film and empowering mentality as a public figure, I was super excited that she was the choice to play Belle.  But, as I watched her, although out of her mouth came the rhetoric of female empowerment and hints of a great vision, I felt there was something she held back emotionally that caused some of this film to fall a bit flat for me.  Her singing also did not seem to match the level of the other cast, whose talents were fantastic; though it was soft and sweet, it seemed a little held back.  Lastly, the changes in character outcomes, choices and rhetoric were, I felt, more a reflection of current social ideology than the story, which is an artistic choice and can be fun to do in some situations but it does not seem to go along with the rest of this film, was practically a play by play of the original Disney version.  

Illustration courtesy of Julia Yoon

Regardless of my gut response to this film, the story of Beauty & the Beast will remain one of my favorite stories of all time.  I mean, come on, who couldn’t use a little resurrection in their life?  A new beginning, a new heart, being loved and being seen for who you truly are – it’s the hope of probably everyone and it will always be a worthwhile story to tell.  And the film is still fun to watch, even if mostly to compare to the other version.  Cheers.