Before I begin this review, I would like to draw all of your attentions to the fact that today is the birthday of a very special person: Miss Jessica Prescott. I've had the privilege of counting Jessica as a friend for a while now, and it is such a blessing to know her!! (To which I'm sure everybody else who knows her will attest! ;D) Jessica's a very active, encouraging part of the blogosphere (happy face), even though she doesn't have a blog (sad face), and she's always available for encouragement and fun and general friendliness. Happy birthday, Jessica!!!
And now, the review :)
Y'all, I don't even know how to
handle life begin this review. I guess I'll just go for it.
And now, the review :)
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Y'all, I don't even know how to
First things first, however. If y'all would not read this until after you have seen the movie (if you're planning to see the movie), I'd really appreciate it. Not because I'm concerned about spoilers (much) -- after all, I'm assuming we all kind of know the storyline of BatB -- but because I know from personal experience that there is nothing like hype and gushing for ruining a movie-watching experience. And I may or may not engage in quite a bit of hype and gushing in this review. So. If you are looking for any content warnings or wondering what my opinion is on The Certain Controversial Issue (ahem), I guess you can just skip to wherever I announce that I am about to talk about The Certain Controversial Issue? But otherwise, if you know that you're going to watch this, puh-lease don't read this review just yet. Of course, I can't stop you, but it'd mean a lot to me if you didn't. Okay? 'Kay, thanks.
Moving on! (Also: this is long.)
I went to see Disney's live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast in theaters on March 19th, 2017, with my parents and a friend. (I don't know why I felt the need to let you in on those specifics, but there you are.)
I went into it with fluctuating expectations -- for one thing, I love the 2015 remake of Cinderella so much, and how would BatB be able to compete? For another, the BatB people had a more substantial starting point in the animated film than the Cinderella people, and didn't that kind of make it both easier and harder to follow it up with a "real people" version? Also, I had been uncertain from the beginning as to what I thought of the casting of Emma Watson as Belle -- mainly just because I hadn't seen her in anything (but always kind of connected her to Harry Potter), and because she didn't really "look like Belle" to me in general.
So, all that to say, I went in trying to prepare myself to be let down by the movie, to be honest. After all, though I did -- of course -- like and enjoy and appreciate the animated version, it had never really been a favorite Disney movie, for me personally.
But, um . . .
I kind of loved it. A lot.
I don't actually know how to express it. You know how I/we flippantly say that this or that movie "brought joy" to our souls? Well, this movie actually brought me joy. Not exuberant happiness (though it did that, too), but the same deeper, quieter, throbbing joy that I experience when I watch the end of The Lord of the Rings -- wistful and longing and thought-provoking. I'm being totally serious. This may sound improbable, but I don't know if I can place a movie that has affected me in that particular way, given me that particular, clearly distinguishable feeling, since Lord of the Rings.
(Of course, I realize that this movie may not -- probably will not -- affect everyone the same way it affected me. And that's fine. But I wanted to share with you the way that it did affect me.)
I should get on to the "actual" reviewing part of the review, shouldn't I?
Emma Watson very soon won me over. Even now, looking at her just in the stills, she doesn't really look like Belle, to me -- but it's when you see her in the movie itself, acting . . . that's when you get it. She does Belle VERY well. She captures her courage and her intelligence and her sense of humor and her sweetness and her non-pretension and all that. (Side note: It was about to drive me crazy that her skirt was hiked up for so long, but then my mother pointed out that the makers were probably trying to reinforce the whole idea of her being absent-minded and what-not. So that's actually kind of cool. But still. I'm glad her skirts were worn normally after awhile. :-P)
Dan Stevens' Beast was also quite good. More on that later.
The household staff! Hearts forever. I particularly enjoyed Ewan McGregor's Lumiere and Ian McKellen's Cogsworth, and the camaraderie between the two of them. :) Also, the little boy who played Chip?! When he was human?! Major cuteness alert.
I also really like Kevin Kline's Maurice. Having him as more "level-headed" and more of a painter than an inventor turned out better than I thought it might.
I wasn't quiiiiiiite as sure about The Wardrobe (ain't no way I'm going to try to spell her real name out) and Maestro -- they were cute and fun additions, but perhaps got a leetle too much screen time? I'm not sure. Lemme think about it. ;)
Okay, so, Luke Evans' Gaston. ALL THE YES. Bombastic, ridiculous, and arrogant -- Gaston to a T.
Some of his lines, though (I'm probably paraphrasing): "No offense, Agathe." ~ "She hasn't made a fool out of herself just to gain my favor. What would you call that?" "Dignity?" "Well, it's enormously attractive!" ~ "You've read it?" "Well, not that particular one, but -- books, yes." ~ "Think about the war, think about explosions and widows . . . " "Ah, widows!"
Luke Evans does a good job of making Gaston almost likable . . . until he punches Maurice and *semi-spoilers* ties him up to be eaten by wolves *end of semi-spoilers* and then you remember that he's a legitimately Bad Guy.
I suppose now would be as good a time as any to get the Talk about the Controversy out of the way (I only have that phrase in a bigger size in case anybody is coming here from my pre-review warning). *sigh* (Spoilers for a minor plot element follow.)
So. Some of you may know, some of you may not know (I myself did not know until the night before I went to see it) that BatB has incited controversy and, I am told, boycotting, because of the fact that LeFou is gay in this version.
Yes, I find this unnecessary and unfortunate, given the fact that I believe homosexuality is contrary to God's Word. However, I do not think that this negates the substantial value in the rest of the movie. For starters, it's "a minor thing." LeFou's homosexuality is by no means the focal point of the story. Also, since LeFou is historically a rather ridiculous character, I don't honestly feel that making him gay is that much of a "triumph for the gay community," or anything like that. Now, granted, they do give LeFou more depth in this version, as well (which I like). I don't want to try to persuade you to go and see it if you've decided, for conscientious reasons, to pass on it, but I do want to say, for the record, that it did not lessen my love for the film. It is restricted mainly to some insinuations and, to be honest, some making fun. And *semi-spoilers* during the final number of the movie, LeFou ends up dancing with another guy (who was "presented" as a gay character during the storming of the castle -- another rather irksome two seconds). *end of semi-spoilers* That's it.
Right, that's taken care of, thank goodness, and we can move on to cheerier subjects!
There are so many little details that I love in this movie -- one of the things that delighted me was when the staff shows Belle to her room, and an instrumental snippet of "Home" (from the Broadway musical) plays for a few moments. I was geeking out for a second there, hoping/thinking she was going to actually sing it. I suppose I'm okay with the fact that she didn't, though it would have been fun to hear/see. ;D
The Beast's new number, "Evermore," was nice. I will admit, my first impression was that "If I Can't Love Her" (also from the B. musical) would have been better, but then I realized that it wouldn't really have worked, chronologically speaking, since he already did love her at that point. (Plus, they were remaking the Disney movie, not the Broadway musical.) As I've thought about the song since (and seen various Pinterest edits *ahem*), it has certainly grown on me. ;-P And Dan Stevens' voice was unexpectedly powerful! As were all the cast's voices, for that matter -- I was pleasantly surprised when Emma Watson started to sing the first time. I had, I confess, in my condescending, musically-"educated" way, expected a nice-but-not-really-that-great voice. But I thought she sang really, really well, and serves my arrogance right!
Adding the scene where they go to Paris and Belle finds out what happened to her mother was a great touch. I liked how the Beast (calling him Adam doesn't seem natural) didn't try to hide the doctor's mask from her, and how he didn't try to make her feel better with "extraneous talking." It gave a good glimpse into how they would work together as a couple. :)
The makers hit the nail on the head with re-envisioning the Disney movie, I think. They added enough new bits to keep the watcher from thinking they were watching the exact same movie all over again, yet they didn't try to change it too much, either. They all seem to know how important the animated version is to so many people, and they respected that. (For instance, having Belle see the Beast talking with the horse when she sings the line "New and a bit . . . alarming . . . "? Gold.)
I liked how they gave the Beast a backstory so that we have an idea of how and why he became the way he is. I liked this Beast better than the animated one overall -- I think maybe they gave him more depth in general. Also, the very beginning of the movie was cool. I felt that the narrator (was that Hattie Morahan?) spoke the intro a little too rapidly, and it was a little different having a woman's voice rather than a man's voice do it, but I appreciated how they made the opening period-correct. It was a little disturbing seeing Dan Stevens in all that French makeup, but it was cool to have that nod to accuracy even in a fantasy movie. :)
And speaking of Hattie Morahan, the sub-plot of Agathe/the Enchantress was great! I had forgotten that H. M. was going to be in it, so that was a fun surprise. :) And, of course, it was cool seeing her opposite Dan Stevens again, because Sense and Sensibility '08. ;D
AND GUYS, THE ENDING. ALL THE PERFECTION!!!!!!!!
They included the Belle-looking-into-the-Beast's-eyes shot after he became human again, and it was fabulous. Such a neat parallel to the animated movie, and such a powerful part in general!!
And then they were reunited with the household and we got to see everybody's human faces and there's just a lot of happiness. :D :D
I lurved the wedding dance. Can we talk about the growl?! "How would you feel about growing a beard?" *growl and subsequent giggling* IT MADE ME SO UNREASONABLY HAPPY. :D
Aha! I have cast support on this! ;D
Like I said, this movie captivated me and gave me joy -- like, actually. And since that Sunday afternoon, I have been a little afraid that the next time I see it, it won't mean as much; that it'll have lost its luster. I'm afraid it won't uplift me in the same way again.
But I think -- given the feelings I got just from writing this review and finding pictures for it and recalling favorite parts -- that it will. :)