So sorry I haven’t blogged in forever! I’ve been working on some creative writing projects with the goal of publishing–more on that later. Here is the latest piece I wrote for my school newspaper over the new live-action Beauty and the Beast:
I’ve never been a fan of Beauty and the Beast. I didn’t understand it and I didn’t really like the characters. Going in to watch the remake of the film, I had no real expectations for the film to fulfill and was surprised to find that I loved it. I was amazed by the elegance of this film, the way old, familiar songs were reimagined, the depth given to characters that didn’t have much to them in the original, and the beauty of every scene.
Every scene of Beauty and the Beast is breathtaking. There’s a strong attention to detail in each object in the castle and the village and also in the costumes of the characters, not only in their appearance but in the kind of details that were added. The creators of this film decided to be historically accurate, sticking with a Baroque style in the clothing and makeup of the characters; this detail makes it feel like instead of watching a movie you’ve been transported to another world. The historical accuracy adds to the story in other ways as well as the visuals, including a better explanation as to what happened to Belle’s mother and a somewhat comical reference to a guillotine.
There were other differences between this version of Beauty and the Beast and the original, but I can say with confidence most every change that the writers of this movie made when compared to the original was for the better. One of the most obvious was the addition of character depth from everyone from Lefou (Josh Gad) to Belle’s father (Kevin Kline). Lefou was given a character arc, giving the audience the opportunity to watch him grow as he questions his loyalty to Gaston (Luke Evans). Gaston had a character arc of his own, starting off as simply arrogant and then sinking into something more sinister, which made him a more shocking and satisfying villain. The castle staff—Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts—was given a better explanation as to why they are included in the curse that the Beast (Dan Stevens) suffers from at the hands of the Enchantress (Hattie Morahan). The Beast was given a better backstory too and even a song, though the movie might have been better without the song. As a whole, the characters in Beauty and the Beast were masterfully rewritten and undoubtedly make the film even more of an experience than the visuals and rich history already succeeded in doing.
In the original Beauty and the Beast it was unclear (at least in my opinion) why the town thought Belle was odd and why she was so against staying in her village and living her life there. The village always seemed pretty okay to me in the animated original. But in the live-action remake, darker undertones have been written in to make it clear what’s up with Belle (Emma Watson) and her village. At the beginning of the movie Belle starts to teach a young girl to read, but members of the town treat this action with disgust, establishing a anti-literacy motif that is reinforced throughout the movie such as when Lefou comically admits he doesn’t know how to spell Gaston. This gives more of an explanation as to why Belle is described as “odd” by the people in her village and also why she wants more than what the ignorant people of her village can offer her.
Even with the emotional heartache caused by the darker undertones and more developed characters, Beauty and the Beast still manages to be, for the most part, light-hearted and true to the ambience of the original. This is created by some of the other differences from the original to the live-action, my personal favorite being the choreography in each of the songs. In “Gaston” the characters get on the tables to clap and dance and have an impromptu sword fight. This and other unexpected choreographed moments were a nice surprise and a fantastic addition to the film.
Almost all of the familiar, nostalgic songs from the original Beauty and the Beast are included (with the exception of “Human Again” and a few others from the musical), though they sound slightly different as each actor interprets it a different way. I found each of the songs to be emotional and enjoyable except for one.
One of the new song additions to Beauty and the Beast is “Evermore,” a song that the Beast sings after the ballroom scene while watching Belle return to her father. It is beautifully sung by the voice of the Beast, Dan Stevens, but the song itself is different in tone from the other songs in the film, more emotional and filled with angst. This song took away from the Beast’s character more than it added to the film, and felt very out of place to the overall theme of the movie.
Another point of concern in the film was the lack of clarity when it came to the accents of the characters. In the original, Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), is the only one with a distinct French accent, so it’s not surprising that this is the same for the remake, though maybe a little odd since the rest of the movie tries to be so historically accurate. In “Be Our Guest,” the song Lumiere sings to Belle, the French accent disappears a little bit, slipping into British or American. The rest of the cast speaks in a British or American accent which gives the film a thread of inconsistency that is distracting from the beauty of the rest of it.
Despite these few issues, the movie makes up for it in the talented actors that fill the cast. The cast of Beauty and the Beast is a collection of familiar faces from other popular movies. Emma Watson, known for her role as Hermione in the Harry Potter series, portrays Belle, Luke Evans, Bard in The Hobbit trilogy, plays Gaston. Ewan McGregor, recognized from his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels, does a wonderful Lumiere. Josh Gad, Gaston’s sidekick Lefou, is widely loved for his portrayal of Olaf in Frozen. Emma Thompson, known from movies such as Saving Mr. Banks and Nanny McPhee, voices the lovable Mrs. Potts. And of course the cast also includes Ian McKellen, known for his roles as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy. This undeniably talented cast had very few issues, such as the aforementioned accent inconsistency, and Emma Watson’s singing.
Emma Watson is an actress first, not a singer, so when the movie opens with her voice it’s kind of surprising. There are a few notes that are clearly autotuned which is slightly cringy, but those little mistakes were quickly forgotten during the other songs of the movie. Nobody’s perfect, and Watson’s few imperfect moments were in the beginning of the film were washed away by the excellence of her performance in the rest of it.
Having grown up watching Emma Watson as Hermione in all the Harry Potter movies, it was strange but fantastic to see her in a new setting. Especially the scene where Belle is given the library; it seemed so natural and nostalgic to see Emma Watson surrounded by books.
Even though Beauty and the Beast suffered from a few problems with accents and autotune overall the new live-action Beauty and the Beast is an amazing reimagination of the original. The nostalgia of the familiar songs and characters combined with the new songs, character development, and the elegance of the sets and scenery make the film an experience that cannot be missed. Though I was not a fan of Beauty and the Beast before, I definitely am now.