Now, I am going to say first off, that I love Beauty and the Beast. The 1991 version of cartoon and splendor – complete with pigs and chickens and things (*bonus points to those who catch that reference). I, along with many Disney die-hards, was very concerned when the idea for a live-action version of this animated classic (also Oscar nominated btw). I had the exact same fear when it came to Cinderella two years ago. Probably even moreso because of my ties with Miss Ella.
Belle has always been that princess that I loved, but couldn’t love too much – because that was my sister’s favorite. That is, until she she took on a gender studies minor in college and did a whole class about Disney and their princess proportions (don’t even get me going on the debates we had). But over the years, as I continue to go back through my childhood favorites, I come back to Belle and her strength to find the good in the Beast. And the willingness to sacrifice herself for her father. She was strong-willed and determined, but I didn’t feel like she was able to portray that too much. At least not to little girls who need it blatantly shown to them. I think this adaptation was able to do that with much better flair. So, without further adeiu, I bless you all with my thoughts on this new movie.
If you watched the live-action version of Cinderella in 2015, you know that that was a BEAUTIFUL movie. The colors, the music, the story. It was just a pretty movie. Light and airy. Beauty and the Beast is not that movie – and I think that is what threw me off a little bit. Also, for some odd reason, despite all the promotion for it being a musical – I wasn’t expecting a musical. So that was all just my fault. So combination between the musical and darkness, I struggled the first few minutes in being excited.
That being said, as you continue in the movie, it makes logical sense for it to be a darker sense and aura. Cinderella is known for her kindness and magic and belief in good. Belle, while she is gorgeous, and an object of affection for many of the townsmen, doesn’t exude that same personality. She is strong, independent and self-sufficient. She has this inner struggle of trying to find out who she is, and why she is where she is and what can be done for her to end up happy. That, within itself, doesn’t call for a light, happy movie. There’s a darkness inside each of the characters that allows for more artistic license in the projection of the overall feeling. And that’s just Belle! There’s the darkness that surges inside the Beast (or Adam, whichever you prefer), the darkness that is so plainly evident in Gaston, the tragic story of Maurice, and the newly crafted inner struggle of LaFou.
Also! After some digging (because this was a topic of discussion among my friend group) it is also fair to say that Beauty and the Beast takes place much earlier than Cinderella. Almost substantially so. In this live action version, we are taken to Belle’s childhood home – where we are shown that her family was exposed to the plague. Which is quite early in the French history – not to mention that once I Googled it, it popped up that it’s supposed to be taking place around the French 1740’s. Gaston just came back from war, and with some context clues, we can denote that perhaps this was the Austrian Succession. This is before the French revolution, but not long before. Which makes sense considering the powdered wigs and excessive makeup. IT ALL COMES TOGETHER NOW!!!! (just as an FYI, Cindy takes place in 1800’s France – after the revolution and time of more peace, but still heavily influenced with Monarchs).
Anyway, back to the movie.
There’s always something to be said about how you can take a childhood cartoon and turn it into something that you can take with you farther along in life. By recreating this, you feel a sense of urgency in the feminism that Belle tries to pursue – which is very relevant to our days today. We are almost re-introduced to these characters as older, wiser fans that see the world in a different way as opposed to when we did seeing the cartoon.
The singing in this movie is superb. It’s not perfect and that’s probably what makes it so perfect to me. Emma Watson has a sweet and sincere sound that fits Belle almost to a T. And the Beast….they gave him a song in this adaptation and I could not be more in love with it. I am not giving it all away, but, it’s a tear-jerker. Be Our Guest is amazing and enchanting, and Beauty and the Beast is…just…
Like before, two years ago when I watched Cinderella and reviewed it, I don’t want to spoil anything for you guys who haven’t been able to see it yet. All I say is that you should. If you have any ties to the beloved cartoon and the magic of Disney – you don’t want to miss this adventure in the great, wide, somewhere.
And you will learn
Just who could ever learn to love a Beast.