Tea or coffee? I’ll have chai; we’re making progress with tea, folks. This weekend marks the opening of another Disney live action film that we didn’t know we needed— Beauty and the Beast.
With the brilliance of the 1991 animation as well as the success and excellence of the more recent Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast had much to live up to. In its entirety, the film did not disappoint. Emma Watson shines as Belle and makes the character an even greater feminist hero than when she first graced the screen in ‘91: she normalizes education and intelligence for girls in narrow minded villages; she is an inventor; and she is not afraid to push boundaries, questioning the domestic sphere in which women were and in many ways, are still confined to. Watson’s voice is that of a song bird— pure and melodious. Dan Stevens is the Beast. No one could have played the character better; Stevens transforms a character which was once depicted as exclusively animalistic initially, as a human trapped within an animal from the beginning. The pity one feels towards the Beast isn’t contrived, but rather a sincere and genuine empathetic expression of emotion. Spoiler Alert: Knowing the Beast was emotionally abused, at least that is what I inferred from the dialogue, as a child or perhaps differently said, manipulated and twisted by his father, gives reason to his behavior. The relationship between Belle and Beast is neither rushed nor unfounded. Instead viewers can properly track and accept this love.
The rest of the cast is superb. Luke Evans was astounding as Gaston and his excellence was only highlighted by his sidekick Lefou. Josh Gad was born for the role of LeFou and gives the film much its humor. For our beloved household objects: Emma Thompson shines as Potts, take that Angela Lansbury; while Ewan McGregor’s French accent is questionable, Lumiere is still a highlight of the film; McKellen was ever lovable as Cogsworth; Audra McDonald was BRILLIANT, singing in her operatic voice; and I could go on and on, but that would make this a 30-page dissertation.
The artistry within this film is awe inspiring. The set designer, Sarah Greenwood, truly out did herself. Proof of this is that throughout the entire film we are immersed within this world. Whether we care not for a particular song, there’s no turning back to reality when seeing the ball room or looking at Belle’s silhouette basking in the light of the castle’s windows. Now, we must applaud Bill Condon for achieving a fluidity within the film. Put differently, the scenes flow seamless into one another, nothing is drastically out of place.
However, I do have some criticism for Condon. At times, I disagreed with Condon’s direction of the actors, particularly Emma Watson’s facial expressions during Be Our Guest. I’m sorry, but a candelabra is doing back flips off a chandelier, is that a normal occurrence for you Belle? Watson’s expressions were soft smiles, which works fine, but for a film as such it shouldn’t just be fine—it should be wonderful.
Beyond Condon, my other criticism resides with resident costume designer Jacqueline Durran and that YELLOW DRESS (not the remainder of the costumes because they were PERFECT, belle in those combat boots, yessss). Compared to Sandy Powell in Cinderella, where not a single costume disappoints, Durran fell short. To give you context, Sandy Powell, alongside 400 yards of tulle and woven in strings of LED lights, created a masterpiece with the Cinderella blue dress. Not even the Swarovski crystals added by Duran could elevate that dress to the level the Cinderella gown. That being said, having seen the film twice, the yellow dress is still elegant and makes Watson look as though she’s floating on clouds. That famous ballroom dance, doesn’t fall short and I found myself smiling and giggling (yes, giggling) throughout the entire scene, despite my initial criticism.
All in all, the film proves itself to be a tale as old as time and a song as old as rhyme.
Bravo, Disney, Bravo.
the cover photo edited by yours truly
P.S: Honorable mention of a scene is when Emma Watson is running to her father in a full-on ball gown and heels— GIRL POWER