Beauty and the Beast (2017)

beauty

  • Directed by Bill Condon
  • Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, and Luke Evans
  • Written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos
  • Musical, Romance
  • PG
  • 129 mins.
  • 17 March 2017

Synopsis

In a live-action adaptation of the Disney Animated Classic Beauty and the Beast, a young woman named Belle in a small village in France is outcast by the rest of the village for her strange ways and her even stranger father. In the woods not far from the village lies a castle long forgotten after a sorceress cast a spell upon the young, selfish prince and all the castle subjects, leaving him a beast and his staff household items unless the prince can earn the love of another. The fates of those inside the castle seem sealed until Belle stumbles into the castle in search of her father and gives hope to the castle inhabitants for the first time in a long time.

How’s the Story?

The story is no great change to the original animated film, but that isn’t a bad thing. Beauty and the Beast is without a doubt one of the best Disney stories ever. It’s a story about a young woman who is outcast because she’s intelligent and innovative, and this is one of the places that this film upped the ante some. In the original, her father is the inventor and she’s just a bookworm. In this film, her father is an artist and she is the inventor, which only increases the ‘girls shouldn’t be afraid to be smart’ theme of the film, which to me as a little girl was one of the main reasons I loved Belle so much.

Also a step up in this story is the way that the Prince is cursed. In the original, if you pay attention, it mentions that the witch cursed him and gave him until his 21st birthday to break the curse and that his ten years were almost up… meaning an 11 year old child called her ugly so she cursed a whole castle full of people. That’s really freaking petty, if you ask me. This time, he was an adult who should have known better and she made it so that all the people in the village had their memories of the castle and the prince erased, that way the ‘forgot the castle is there’ makes sense. I really liked that this version filled in some plot holes like that from the original.

To me that’s what this story was tasked with doing: take the original and make it a little bit better without ruining the story, and I think it did its job very well.

How’s the Acting?

The acting is good. It’s nothing spectacular at any point, really, but neither was anything bad. It was campy at times, and with that in mind, it was a pretty well done film as far as performances go. I think Luke Evans did a great job embodying Gaston’s arrogant jerkishness. I particularly enjoyed Josh Gad as Le Fou! I actually only recognize him as ‘headphones guy’ from The Intern so I was surprised at how funny he made Le Fou.

The best acting was probably done by the non-human characters. Ewan McGregor as Lumiere was so good. This is less acting than writing, but his comedic timing was really amazing. Also, Dan Stevens is another person I don’t recognize from anywhere else, but I really liked him as the Beast. I loved the animations for the Beast, because his eyes were so human that he felt more real than some of the real people did.

Again, these probably aren’t good things necessarily, but there was nothing bad about the performances in this film even if there was nothing spectacular.

Except Emma Thompson and Audra McDonald. They’re always spectacular. Full stop.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

The writing in this one is really good. I love the comedic timing of so many things in this script. Beauty and the Beast has its moments of comedy, but this version has so many hilarious little bits and pieces that aren’t just funny for kids but are actually funny enough to be funny for everybody. There are little visual gags and tiny lines that are just hilarious. There was one line where Lumiere is dancing around the kitchen and he tastes the soup and goes, “I have no taste buds, but I’m sure it’s good” or something along those lines and I giggled like a child, it was such an unexpected yet funny line.

There were, I admit, some directorial choices that were kind of odd, and not what I would have made, but there was nothing bad. I won’t pretend this film was directed as well as it could have been, but nothing took me out of the story, so it was good enough. I’ve seen a couple of Bill Condon films before and only one of them was even any good, so compared to some of his work, this one was better than most.

How’s the Cinematography?

This is one point where I’ve got great love and annoyance for it. There are some beautiful pieces of camera work in this film, and this is a visually attractive film, but there was also so many missed opportunities. There are so many places where a more dynamic choice by the DP in shot choices could have made this spectacularly beautiful and they didn’t do it. I also have a major gripe with how dark a few of the scenes are. They aren’t like “TV shows on CW” dark where you can’t see what’s going on, but there were scenes that were just a HINT too dark.

There were no real major flaws but tons of little issues that could have been corrected simply by choosing something else when it comes to where the camera goes.

Is It Worth Watching?

Of course it’s worth watching! Are you kidding me? It’s Beauty and the Beast! I’m not one to give an entirely fair and unbiased opinion on this film, because it would have had to be BAD to make me say it’s not worth watching. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney story and this only enhances the story the original told.

Also, I love the diversity! I’m not talking about the whole hubub around the ‘gay thing’ but this film has a racially diverse village and castle, which is often not the case because people like to pretend Europe at that time was a racially homogeneous place. (Or as Gus from Psych asked, “What, black people hadn’t been invented yet?”) I loved seeing black and brown villages and courtiers. It’s always super satisfying to not see an all-white cast on your screen.

While it isn’t a perfect film, and while there are some technical things that could have been better, this is in no way a poorly done film. It’s a beautiful story delivered with fun musical numbers you will sing afterwards just as often as you do after seeing the original, infused with some fun humor. It’s touching, and romantic, and at times heartbreaking, and it’s impossible to dislike this story or the way that it is told here. I wouldn’t go anywhere nears as far as to say it’s better than the original, but that wasn’t the point of this film. I am not one of those people who emphasizes “does this film justify its existence?” because to me that is a pretentious way of looking at film.

Not very film has to be revolutionary. Most films aren’t. I don’t care if this film justifies its existence or not, I only care that it took something I love and gave it to me in a new, satisfying package so that I could enjoy that feeling of seeing it for the first time once again.

This is a good movie. That’s it. That’s all that matters, and this film is most definitely worth watching.

My Rating: 8/10

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About J. Chelsea Williford

Student at Middle Georgia State University, writer, pop culture lover.
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