Friday, 17 March 2017

Beauty and the Beast

I never had any love for Disney’s animated version of Cinderella so I went to see the live action remake with no expectations and ended up falling in love with it.  Cinderella is a gorgeous film that does not and cannot fail to make me happy.  Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite films so the remake had a lot more to live up to. The stakes were raised to an even higher level due to the very convincing trailer, but there would be no middle ground. Beauty and the Beast would deserve either love or hate.

PLOT:  Set in post-war, pre-revolution, Three Musketeer referencing, France, a widowed inventor named Maurice gets lost on his way to a market no further than half a day’s ride from his front door and stumbles upon an enchanted castle.  After Maurice is taken captive by a Beast for stealing a flower, his daughter Belle, offers to take his place as the Beast’s prisoner.  Belle and the Beast bond over their love of books and tomato soup.  However, the Beast must also learn to love and be loved in return, by the time the last petal falls on his enchanted rose, otherwise, the castle will remain enchanted forever. END PLOT

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Beauty and the Beast so it was fun to watch a familiar plot play out in another format.  There were enough new scenes, such as the section with Gaston, LeFou and Maurice in the forest, to add an element of freshness to a script I could perform all by myself. 

I would never have chosen Emma Watson as Belle but it’s hard to criticise her performance.  Watson is not on Paige O’Hara’s level when it comes to singing but I don’t believe she was pretending to be.  Dan Stevens added depth to the Beast, which is missing from his animated counterpart, but my heart will never fail to sink during the transformation scene. A Beast should remain a Beast.

Luke Evans' Gaston is perfection.  

The supporting cast has some flaws: Ewan McGregor, despite being married to a French woman for a quarter of a century, seems not to have heard his wife speak, Emma Thompson appears to have taken elocution lessons from the Artful Dodger and Sir Ian McKellen is criminally underused.  The flaws don’t matter as Ewan McGregor justifies his casting during Be Our Guest, Emma Thompson is the heart of the film and, when he shows up, Sir Ian McKellen’s voice commands the screen as much as his actual presence. Beauty and the Beast is a hard film to cast, but any film that has the wonderful Stanley Tucci overact like crazy while playing a harpsichord can’t be too far off the mark.

The songs are just as memorable as the original. I was worried that Emma Watson would not be able to handle the Belle Reprise, which is the best musical moment in the original, but she put her own spin on it and did not attempt to tackle the big vocals.  I respect her for that.  I confess that I do not have any love or affection for Be Our Guest.  My deep dislike for that song is as dark as my secrets get, but I did love this version!  There were no flat musical numbers and Bill Condon did the set pieces justice.

Beauty and the Beast is a stunning film.  The entire film has a fairy tale glow about it which makes, what could otherwise have been some very questionable CGI characters, acceptable.  The tone of Beauty and the Beast was never aiming for realism and I think this was the correct decision. 

There will be folks that did not or could not fall in love with Beauty and the Beast.  If they were to explain to me why, I would in all likelihood see where they are coming from but I will not be swayed.  It made me happy and that is reason enough for me to fall in love all over again.  Beauty and the Beast gets 9.5/10.  It would have scored a perfect 10 had there been a bit more Cogsworth.  I’ll see it again in the cinema but I’ll also purchase the bluray and actually watch it.  I can’t give it any greater recommendation than that.

Oh, and to those folks who want to boycott the film due to their homophobic or prejudiced thought processes.  Good. Don’t see it.  You don’t deserve it.

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