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*Spoilers for the new Beauty and the Beast ahead*
Team Normal has been unbelievably excited for the new live-action Beauty and the Beast ever since the announcement that it was being made. We’ve flipped out over the first trailer and the released photos, and our anxious wait is almost over because the movie comes out this Friday. I was lucky enough to be able to attend a screening, and let me tell you this new version does not disappoint. It’s essentially the tale as old as time that we all love from the 1991 version, but with a few new elements. I won’t get into too many of them here, because that’s the fun of going to see a story done a new way. I was amazed with the job director Bill Condon did right from the first scene, the colorful and sparkly ball where the Prince gets cursed. The costumes are gorgeous and Dan Stevens has some serious makeup. From that scene right to the very end, the movie is beautiful to look at. There’s also the small matter of the main characters, so I’ll get right to them.
This Beauty and the Beast‘s version of Belle has been touted as a more feminist rendering of the character, and efforts are made to show that she shares her father’s mechanical abilities. We see her sketching and formulating, and invent a washing machine that she sets up in the town square. The small minded villagers can’t have that of course, and seeing her create something useful as well as catching her teaching a young girl to read is just too much, and they throw all of her laundry on the ground like jerks. Gaston likes her, but only because he thinks she’s the most beautiful girl in the village, because of course that’s the only thing a guy like Gaston would care about.
Emma Watson’s Belle also refuses to take the “trapped in an enchanted castle” thing lying down, and tries to escape as soon as she can. In one of my favorite moments, after Belle and the Beast’s big dance together, when he asks her if she’s happy at the castle, she pauses and then asks him if anyone can be truly happy if they’re not free. Yes it’s still a Disney fairytale, but Belle definitely has a modern quality. I can’t speak to how well Emma Watson did with the singing. I thought she sounded great, but I also hate musicals. (I don’t consider Disney movies to be musicals. There’s something inherent in their Disney-ness that makes singing acceptable. That might seem ridiculous to anyone else but somehow makes sense to me.) She certainly doesn’t sound bad. And props to her for having to act against a CGI co-star, which brings us to…
The Beast! Poor Dan Stevens, so handsome and we only get to see his face for about three minutes of the movie. One of the new additions to the movie is “Evermore,” the song he sings after Belle leaves the castle to go help her father. Knowing the original as well as I do, I didn’t think I would take such a liking to any new music, but it’s a really beautiful song. The Beast (who still doesn’t get a first name in this one) also gets a bit of an expanded backstory, and we learn how exactly he came to be such a huge jerk.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen the stories about LeFou being Disney’s first officially gay character and the resulting overreaction. Without giving too many details about the film away, I can tell you that Beauty and the Beast does not turn into a hardcore gay porn halfway through, so everyone using the “but what about the children?!” argument for why they don’t want to see the movie anymore can stop pretending that they’re not homophobic. LeFou’s character arc is one of the biggest differences between this and the animated film, and I love what Josh Gad did with it.
At the beginning of the movie LeFou is willing to go along with all of Gaston’s ideas because he’s clearly infatuated with him. (At the end of the big musical number in the tavern, Gaston asks why LeFou hasn’t found himself a wife yet, and the quick look LeFou gives him kind of broke my heart a little, I have to say.) As Gaston does increasingly bad things, LeFou becomes conflicted, and with a final push from Mrs. Potts in the castle battle scene, he decides that he deserves better. His journey from the bad side to the good side is one of my favorite aspects of the film.
One of the people I was most excited to see in the movie was Luke Evans as Gaston and he did not disappoint. First of all, the guy can sing. Bonus: Look at the prime a-hole face he’s giving.
He clearly had a blast working on this movie. He even gets to say the line “It’s hero time.” We know Gaston is our villian, but he’s so fun to watch that for a long time you don’t want to see anything too bad happen to him. He becomes more sinister than his animated counterpart though: He actually leaves Belle’s father Maurice tied to a tree when Maurice is less than enthusiastic about Gaston’s wish to be his son-in-law, and when he fights the Beast as the end of the movie he shoots him in the back three times. (A new line in the “Gaston” number reveals that he has no problem with the unfairness of shooting from behind.) I’m confident that everyone who watches the movie is going to love him as much as they possibly can while simultaneously hating him.
I’ll admit to being highly skeptical when I first saw what some of the household objects were going to look like for this movie, but I got so sucked into the movie that by the end I wasn’t giving it a second thought. All that freaking out for nothing, as per usual. Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen engage in the kind of banter you would expect from Lumiere and Cogsworth, and Lumiere specifically actually did me a huge favor. A modified line in “Be Our Guest” (along with a few details given elsewhere in the movie) addresses the plot hole that has bugs me about the animated movie.
I don’t have to tell you that of course Audra McDonald sang every single note perfectly, and I wish I had a wardrobe that would serenade me so beautifully. Emma Thompson is as fantastic as she always is, and Stanley Tucci is at his Stanley Tucci-est.
You’ll shed some tears, and you’ll smile so big that your face hurts. One piece of commentary about Beauty and the Beast that’s been baffling to me is the complaint that it didn’t “need” to be made. Of course it didn’t. But does that really matter? Have you seen the state of the world lately? I think we could all stand to have a little bright spot of joy, no matter where it comes from. If you’re walking down the street on a hot summer day and someone offers you an ice cream cone, do you analyze why they’re giving it to you? Do you really need that ice cream cone, or are there other, better things that you could be doing on a hot summer day instead? No, you take the damn ice cream cone, because it’s right in front of your face and ice cream is delicious. Go see this ice cream cone of a movie. It’s delightful.
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