Saturday, May 6, 2017

Beauty and the Beast Movie Review

I recently went to the movie "Beauty and the Beast", starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.

All I can say is "Wow". It is a stunning big screen experience.
I am a big fan of this storyline, a classic tale of love and romance, of a gentle, beautiful woman taming a beast. Isn't that what marriage is all about?

Yeah, in real life, the wild man bachelor is tamed when he weds and succumbs to civilization by his gentle spouse. Caveman becomes Gentleman. Gotta love it!

The story was first brought to life in the eighteenth century, written in 1740 by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and published in The Young American and Marine Tales. It was later rewritten, abridged and published by Jeanne-Marie LaPrince de Beaumont in 1756 in a book called Children's Collections.  The original story has been changed and morphed into various adaptations in recent years.

Basically, the beast is actually a handsome prince, cursed to take the shape of a beast for some transgression. Tradition holds that it is because he was cruel to an old woman who was actually a witch. His punishment is that he must bear the shape of a beast until someone can love him and set him free of the curse.

There is a merchant in the story, with a lovely daughter. The merchant loses his way one night during a storm, and takes refuge in a palace. He picks a rose, and is cursed by the beast to be imprisoned forever for trespassing. The beautiful daughter offers to take her father's place as the beast's prisoner. So, the story is set up for beauty to tame the beast. You know the story, classic, they gradually fall in love, and the beast is freed from his curse.

In 1991, Disney remade the tale into a cartoon movie. I bought it for my kids for Christmas that year. This version is a musical, and it was stunning, beautiful, incomparable, so far above any other rendition--until now. The 1991 Disney version sort of the gold standard for any true Beauty and the Beast Fans.

In March of 2017, the world was given a new version, a live action version with actors instead of carton characters.  Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame is Belle, and she executes her role superbly. I was impressed. She brings Belle to life with exceptional skill. Dan Stevens plays an impressive Beast. His British accent and his voice are charming, but the makeup he had to endure to become the Beast is also worthy of an Oscar nomination.

The musical big screen version is the same as the 1991 version, pretty much word for word. Yes, I know this because it was watched obsessively in my house when my kids were little, so I pretty much have the musical version burned into my memory.

The sets are stunning, and the castle is truly a masterpiece. I loved the Gothic feel of the castle. The Castle and land surrounding it seems to be frozen in winter, while in the outside world, it's June.

To retrace my steps back to the plot, Beauty (Belle), agrees to take her father's place as the Beast's prisoner. At first the Beast is very harsh with  her, but his staff treat her well and coax the Beast into being nicer to her. The staff has been enchanted with him, and all have been changed into objects that signify what their role was in Castle. Mrs. Potts is the housekeeper, and she becomes a teapot. The butler is changed into a clock, and the head footman into a candelabra, and so forth. They are cursed with the Beast so they have a vested interest in helping the Beast win her heart so they all can be free of the curse.

As a movie goer, I was impressed. This is one movie that you must see on the big screen. It's a classic fairytale. The director and producers did a wonderful job of bringing the story to life in a live action film.

When the Beast gives Belle the ultimate gift of his library as her own, I think we all swoon a little!

In Belle, Emma Watson's beauty is not the Razzle Dazzle Sparkly Hollywood kind, it's a refreshing natural woman kind of beauty. She's not showy, she's intelligent, brave as she faces the beast and confronts him to save her father, and she's a role model for young girls. Learning is good, reading is good, so is standing up for what you believe in! This is a heroine for little girls to root for.

Dan Stevens plays the Beast with grace and aplomb. He's known for his character in Downton Abbey, Matthew Crawley, and I believe he brings some of that grace into this role. At first the Beast is angry and cruel, but he can't keep it up for long. His humanity keeps slipping through. The Beast is an educated man, a well read man inside, and this love of literature between both Belle and the Beast is the thing that brings them together.

And this is the part of the story that is so fantastic. It's not Barbie and Ken, or The Kardashians!  It's the brainy, intelligent girl, the class nerd who doesn't fit into the crowd finding love and acceptance. It's Alex Dunphy of Modern Family finding romance and good fortune instead of her older sister, Haley. Yay Alex, and Yay Belle! Remember, the townspeople all think Belle is odd. She doesn't fit in because she likes to read so much, to learn, and she doesn't want to just marry Gaston and become a wife and mother. She wants more out of life. She's different then her peers, and yet, she's given the chance of a happily ever after.

I love Belle. The character, from the Disney version of 1991, and the new Live Action version of 2017 is a fantastic Heroine for modern times. Belle fights for her family, she is kind, patient, and intelligent. She craves knowledge, and when the Beast gives her the ultimate gift of his library as her own, I think we all swoon a little!

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