So, let’s talk about the new film, shall we? You might have heard of it? Bit of a box office smash? The new Beauty and the Beast live-action remake. Fair warning–I loved it so much that I’m going to see it again on Friday with my BFF. And I might see it again in IMAX too. And possibly once more in 3D. I shall attempt to keep the fangirl squee-ing to a minimum here, and I might update this after I see it again (or more).
Disney’s done a fair few remakes over the past few years with varying degrees of success. Before this, Cinderella was a pretty big hit (We’ll talk about that in a few weeks when we get to the animated version). I’m going to guess that–as a generalization, the anthropomorphic ones are going to be less successful to translate from animation to film. But that’s just a guess.
But Beauty and the Beast is so beloved–an instant classic. It’s iconic–the rose, the Beast, the castle, the songs, the yellow dress. Honestly, going in, I was a bit stressed they’d mess it up. But, overall, I think they did a fantastic job.
First of all, it’s a very close remake. It’s got a longer running time, so there are a few things added (as well as a few glaring omissions) that I’ll try to discuss. Overall, I’d give it an A. I don’t know that it gets an A+ for a few reasons that I’ll discuss below.
Cinematically, it’s stunningly gorgeous. The sets, the costumes, all of it is perfection. I have heard people joke about the Beast looking like a water buffalo. While they’re not wrong, he does look like the cartoon version come to life, so I didn’t have a particular problem with it. I also heard people fuss about the yellow dress. It doesn’t look as good in the stills as it does in the movie. In the movie, it’s very flowy and floaty in that amazing ballroom scene. Yes, “Be Our Guest” is better in 3D and IMAX but still not as good as the animation.
The story: The changes here are subtle–there are no major changes to the storyline itself. But, they deepened the backstories of the main characters–specifically Belle, Beast, Gaston, and LeFou. Maurice is not the goofy dad he was in the cartoon but more of the benevolent, absent-minded professor. Kevin Kline is great in this–I hope he gets a supporting actor nod.
There is one specific scene where we get Belle’s backstory as a child in Paris that is exceptionally touching. They go to Paris–the Beast is so heartwarmingly excited to share it with her–to discover that her mother died of the plague. Beautifully done. Gorgeous.
Mrs. Potts also makes the observation that Beast’s father abused him, causing him to be the spoiled, petty prince we meet at first. Gaston is a war hero, probably suffering from PTSD. And LeFou is suffering from unrequited love. All strong motivations, accomplished by tweaking the dialogue a bit. Well done.
One tweak to the dialogue that I actually really liked was at the very end. In the cartoon, post-transformation Prince Adam (Beast) says, “Belle, it’s me” before she recognizes him. In the live-action version, she recognizes him solely by looking into his eyes, in a call back to the dancing scene. Perfect. Sometimes less is more 🙂
The music: They way overachieved here. I especially adore the song “Evermore” (I’ve played it an embarrassing number of times according to iTunes). The soundtrack is beyond awesome. I also like the other two new songs, “Days in the Sun” and “How Does a Moment Last Forever?” Overall, just download the soundtrack. It’s fabulous. I will definitely be using it for writing background noise.
The acting: Overall, really strong. I have to admit that while Emma Watson looks like Belle and her acting’s come a long way from her earliest Harry Potter days, she’s the weakest of the cast, especially in voice. Paige O’Hara (the cartoon Belle) had serious pipes. Watson simply doesn’t. Her voice is okay but never strong. She’s basically the Russell Crowe of this movie (Shout out to my Les Miz fans!) To be clear, I think her acting is quite good here. Her voice is just weak, especially in the first few numbers.
I loved Dan Stevens on Downton Abbey (he played the doomed Matthew) and loved him as the Beast. That sexy growl at the end–swoon city! As well as his performance of “Evermore”–Josh Groban’s is insipid by comparison. I hope Stevens gets the attention he deserves after this. He is perfection as the Beast. Seriously, “Evermore” made me cry–all three times in the theatre! I love that song and I love Dan singing it. Also, the growl at the end has made me want to write fanfic for days. Since I’ll miss all my deadlines on my original stuff, I won’t. But every woman I know who saw this movie talks about the growl.
I also really enjoyed the opening sequence more than in the animated version. Beast is very Valmont crossed with Draco Malfoy in that sequence. I also read a headcanon that said the white wolves surrounding the castle are the cursed dancers from that scene which I loved.
Could Luke Evans be a more perfect Gaston? And some serious pipes there too. (For those who spent half the movie trying to figure out where you’ve seen him before–he was Bard the Bowman in the Hobbit. The one who shoots Smaug).
I did not love Josh Gad’s performance–NOT because of the gay thing, which I’ll address below–but because he vividly reminds me of someone I once knew. Also, all I can hear is Olaf. But, that may just be my personal taste as others don’t have that issue. I will say I liked the character changes to LeFou. He’s a much stronger character now.
I liked Gandalf as Cogsworth (now we know what he was up to when he wandered off in the Hobbit 🙂 and Obi-Wan did well as Lumiere (when fandoms collide). Just kidding. I do think it’s genius of Disney to cast such luminaries as McKellen, McGregor, and Thompson in key roles (not to mention Audra McDonald and Stanley Tucci). The animated characters are cuter, especially Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts. Except the graceful and gorgeous Plumette, I prefer the animated ones. Still, at the end, when they turn into objects, I cried buckets. How can a teapot closing her eyes–after being so frantic to find her son–make me sob? I pretty much started crying at “Evermore” and didn’t stop.
The (not so) big gay controversy: Let me state, in case any of you didn’t know this, that I am a staunch supporter of LBGTQ rights and representation. I wrote a slash ship (McKirk of Star Trek AOS fame) for several years. I had and have zero problem with Disney including LBGTQ characters in a non-subtextual manner (they’ve arguably been including them in subtext ever since the Evil Queen in Snow White). For that matter, I thought the cast, in general, was more racially diverse too (yet another welcome change!) but that didn’t make headlines, so no one’s talking about it.
Having said that, I liked the development of the LeFou character. It is a step–but only a step–in the right direction. There was still significant subtext to indicate that Gaston and LeFou had more than a flirtation–the bite mark on LeFou’s belly, the “shoots from behind” line added to Gaston, etc. And LeFou in the film (as opposed to LeFou in the cartoon) is significantly less buffoonish. He’s clearly hung up on Gaston (whether you read them as in a relationship or not) and suffers for it. But he’s also just as clearly gay through the movie, and that’s not only accepted in the world but acknowledged with his own implied happy ending, which is lovely.
However, the whole thing was blink and you miss it. If Crofton hadn’t mentioned LeFou’s homosexuality to the media, we likely wouldn’t be having this discussion at all. And that’s what needs to change. This movie takes a step, and an important step, in the right direction. But it’s not enough. Where are the LBGTQ prince and princesses? Why are there no main characters? That’s what we need. Hopefully, Disney movies–and other studios– of the future will give that to us. **Steps off soapbox**
So, what didn’t I like?
- WHY did they not add in the Prince’s name? It’s Adam, in case you were wondering. Easily fixed, with one line of dialogue. They could have even done it in the opening scene. Not hard. AARGH! What is with Disney and not naming the princes? We have Charming I and Charming II–they’re never named in their films (Cinderella and Snow White) either. Drives me batshit.
This is actually my chief complaint, but it’s a big one! Names are powerful, especially in fairytales. I think it would have been especially powerful for Belle to be talking to him as Beast and go to call him by name, only to stop and say, “I don’t know your name.” And for Beast to say, “It’s Adam.” It would have highlighted that she sees the man behind the beast. Instead, she never once calls him by name, even at the end.
I’ve ranted about this to all my friends who’ve seen the movie (aren’t they lucky?) There is a segment at the end where, in response to Gaston, the Beast says: “I am not a beast.” Still, this is what I would have done (and God help me, I’m probably going to end up writing it because this seriously makes me crazy). I’d have added it to the scene where he gives her the mirror. She thanks him already. She could have said, “I don’t know your name.” And he could have said, it’s Adam. I also would have had her scream it in the tower sequence–it’s much more powerful if she calls him by name.
- Emma Watson’s singing, especially in the opening numbers.
- I did not love Ms. Potts physical appearance. I get that they had to move her face to the side (as the spout nose looked bad in 3-D) but, after that stunning ballroom floor, they had to make the ugliest teapot in existence?
- It’s a minor change (they are all minor) but, in the cartoon, Beast escorts Belle to her room. He doesn’t make her stay in the dungeon. In the film, Lumiere and Cogsworth escort her to the room. I think it makes Beast kinder to escort her.
- There are two small dialogue omissions. I was waiting for both these exchanges and was disappointed not to get them!
Beast: I want to do something for her. But what?
Cogsworth: Well, there’s the usual things. Flowers, chocolates, promises you don’t intend to keep
Following that exchange in the original film, Beast presents her with the library
Gaston: Lefou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking.
Lefou: A dangerous pastime.
Gaston: I know
So, overall, that’s my thoughts on the live action remake. The story is timeless, quite literally the tale as old as time. I adored it. I can’t wait to see it again and again. And eventually, write my own modern take on it. As soon as my schedule clears in 2021 or so. Until then, I’ll have “Evermore” on replay and have already pre-ordered the HD version as soon as it’s released.