Review: Live-Action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Beautifully Reinvents the Magic
The Alan Menken/Howard Ashman song “Be Our Guest” — originally written in 1991 for the animated movie Beauty and the Beast — takes on new meaning in this 2017 Disney live-action version where the creators were given free reign to retell a tale as old as time. This is not your children’s Disney fairytale story of the monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love — but rather a more mature rendering. Over a quarter of a century later, the world is a much different place. This is why the beauty Belle (Emma Watson), her beast (Dan Stevens) and their love story had to be adapted to fit the movie-going audience in our ever-changing and evolving world.
Screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spillotopoulos took some of that modern dramatic license providing Disney’s first ever exclusively gay moment — alluding to villager Le Fou’s (Josh Gad), attraction to Gaston (Luke Evans). Gad puts a swishy spin to Le Fou purring up to Gaston. His comic timing is spot on when in one scene the ladies of the village are fawning over Gaston, so he hisses to them, “it’s never gonna happen ladies.”
Evans as Gaston brings a splendid boisterous vanity to the role as he growls at his own reflection, “I’m not done with you yet,” — to which Le Fou coos, “neither am I!”
Much ado about nothing has also been made about Disney’s first interracial kiss between the Beast’s court composer, Cadenza (Stanley Tucci) and Madame de Garderobe (Audra McDonald). Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon brilliantly executed all this without a second thought.
When we first meet the Prince (Stevens) he is throwing an opulent ball in his magnificent castle. The costumes designed by Jacqueline Durran are stunning 16th century gowns where all the women look like Marie Antoinette twirling about in their finery until the ball is interrupted by a pissed-off enchantress. If you don’t know the story by now — spoiler alert — an evil spell is cast upon the Prince (who obviously rubbed her the wrong way) — turning him into a beast while his servants and dog become his trinkets and furnishings. The only way to break it is by the love of a woman before the last petal falls off the enchanted rose, which also happens to be Belle’s favorite flower.
Emma Watson is enchanting as Belle in Beauty and the Beast. She is fearless, refusing the pompous Gaston’s obnoxious charms.
As her character says, “I may be a farm girl but I’m not simple.”
For Watson, it was important that Belle reflected her feminist views — challenging her demure entrance down to her ill functioning ballet slippers. Belle might be a princess, but she’s in charge of her own destiny.
As she told Vanity Fair, “The first shot of the movie cannot be Belle walking out of this quiet little town carrying a basket with a white napkin in it. We need to rev things up!'”
As for her costume she wanted something more befitting for her feminist feet. She said, “The original sketches had her in her ballet shoes, which are lovely — don’t get me wrong — but she’s not going to be able to do anything terribly useful in ballet shoes in the middle of a French provincial village.”
Watson trades in the slippers for more functional lace-up half boots which she needs to rescue her tinkering Poppa Maurice (Kevin Kline), who inadvertently stumbles upon the beast’s castle. There is a sweet chemistry between them.
Lost in the snowy woods — an affect of the spell — he narrowly escapes a pack of hungry wolves. The cinematography by Tobias A. Schliesser captured the sweeping scenery of England, which doubled for the French countryside. He countered the masterful visual effects and animation as seen in the wolves and the Beast – a combination of motion-capture and puppetry.
The inanimate objects that come to life are joyful to watch with the candelabra Lumiere (voiced by Ewan McGregor), the feather duster Plumette (Gugu M-batha Raw), the operatic Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe (Audra McDonald), the mantel clock (Ian McKellan) and the teacup Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) — singing, swirling and twirling about especially in the 11 o’clock number “Be Our Guest” sung by Thompson as Mrs. Potts. This has its wink and nods to Esther Williams and the lavish MGM musicals.
This Beauty and the Beast beautifully reinvents the magic for the child in all of us.
The film will be released in theaters on March 17.