Beauty and the Beast
Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad
Recently, we heard that Emma Watson let go of La La Land for Beauty and the Beast. We called her a fool, we laughed at her misfortune then.
Look there she goes! That girl is strange, no question
Givin’ up an Oscar for this bore!
But she did no such thing,
Her fortunes straight as string
This film is a beauty, you should be sure!
At the outset, Beauty and the Beast might remind you of Cinderella, another live action adaptation of an old Disney classic, but the parity is pointless as Beauty and the Beast moves on to reveal a stunning musical treat for your eyes, ears and heart.
Sure, the 1991 Oscar-nominated animated film works as a skeleton, but the pasts of the characters—introduced in this version—add flesh and the music blood and the rich sets, gorgeous costumes and the grand production form the flawless skin, binding everything together and bringing to life the classic fairy tale.
I could be wrong but I think a lot of us willed this film into existence. We campaigned that Emma be cast as Belle, a beautiful young girl in a small town in 18th century France who, unfortunately, also has a brain—a fact her townspeople cannot digest. Emma, who is also attributed with the same two qualities in real life, was, of course, the only choice for the part and our collective conscience didn’t fail us.
You saw the doe-eyed Belle drawn by an artist on screen all those years ago, but it still escapes me how Emma could be just as perfect for it. She has Belle’s stern, confident charm, but is the sweetest petal of rose when you need her to be.
Of course, that gorgeous, very familiar voice makes you think it is a friend, but it is so perfect that you discard that thought. All her three songs in the film evoke a different mood. She dreamily hopes for an adventure in ‘Belle’, the opening number, strikes a sombre note in ‘How Does a Moment Last Forever’, and is just a girl falling in love in ‘Something There’.
Dan’s Prince Adam is the first, very painted face we see and we hate him instantly as he ridicules the enchantress who ultimately curses him and his castle. But even from under his thick beast-suit and from on top of his stilts, he manages to change our hearts about him. His booming voice and the kindness in his body work despite his non-expressive, furry face.
As for the changes from the original, there are quite a few very subtle, but significant ones. Belle’s father, Maurice, was a town idiot in the original and we couldn’t care less if he got eaten by wolves. But this time, Kevin Kline plays a man with a painful past, raising the stakes further when he gets taken prisoner by the Beast.
There is not an entire library in the town just for Belle and she visits Père Robert, the only considerate man in town who lets her borrow any of his ten odd books. Belle is not only an avid reader herself but also tries to teach other girls to read.
Both the lead characters are given short back-stories that, though unnecessary, add immensely to the film. Prince Adam gets a five-second-long scene from his childhood, wrapped in a song that leaps over to the present. For Belle, an entirely new magical element is conjured.
Then of course, their is Le Fou -- the first openly gay character in any Disney film ever.
But what makes this film more than just another fairytale with extra CGI, pretty dresses and a happy ending, are the songs. What could one do to give the already-loved songs a new life? We will have to learn from director Bill Condon. His aesthetic has come a long way since the days of Breaking Dawn (Parts 1 and 2).
Josh Gad and Luke Evans make you want to turn into a shotgun-wielding hooligan for just one night with ‘Gaston’. You want to tap with them on bar tables, create horrible rhymes and simply sing panegyrics in the glory of the town brute. That song makes having fun with a bunch of idiots look so appealing.
Beauty and the Beast has always had a special place in my heart. No, not because I watched it as a girl; I watched it as a full grown woman for the first time. The music and the idea of falling in love with a human, and not his looks, always seemed like the kind of fairytale I didn’t want to find faults with. And years later, how many faults did I find this time?
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