Beauty and the Beast English Movie Review

Feature Film | Fantasy, Musicals, Romance
Unlike Jean Cocteau's 1946 French film, Bill Condon's live-action version of the unusual love story does not push the envelope but makes for a worthy reinterpretation, at the very least.
Mar 17, 2017 By Vighnesh Menon

Disney is a brand that was once accused of popularizing false morals and is now lauded for its consciously progressive film-making. Since the turn of the century, the studio giant has silenced its critics with its profitable make-over through the likes of Frozen(2013), Zootopia(2016) and Moana(2016), to name but three from recent memory. Disney's winning combination of upsetting its own stereotypes and imaginative storytelling makes sure stories of yore are everlasting as long as they are in its hands. And with Beauty and the Beast, the studio simply continues its domination over the skeptics.

Bill Condon, known for directing Gods and Monsters(1998) Dreamgirls(2006), helms the retelling of the love story between Belle and The Beast. Emma Watson and Dan Stevens play the titular characters while a handful of great thespians in Ian McKellen, Kevin Kline, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci and Ewan McGregor occupy the principal cast. Watson essentially plays a bibliophilic, or in simpler words, a nerd, not unlike her Hermione from the Harry Potter series. This is a role she could easily fit into but also asks for more with its musical genre. Watson and the rest of the actors put their hearts and souls into the massively choreographed music sequences. But somehow, the music does not pull you quite into the fantastical world of the film.

Beauty and the Beast is a beautiful film to look at. The grandiose mise-en-scene and mostly well-researched costume, make-up and hair-styling act as wonderful ingredients in underscoring the theme of 'real beauty'. That said, the fact that the film verges on the artificiality of a typical animation film, mainly for the identifiable computerized imagery, makes a dent on the modern realism it is trying to achieve. Other areas of concern are the downright expository dialogues, some questionable costumes(especially, the laughable beachwear look of the prince once he turns back into a human), a rushed first act and a messy final act. The writing and casting, though, resonate with the current audience, with such brave choices as completely humanizing and lightening the demeanour of the Beast, including a diverse group of characters such as the controversy that was LeFou(Josh Gad)- the homosexual sidekick of the antagonist, Gaston(Luke Evans)- and a number of Black characters like the priest, Plumette and Madame de Garderobe. It would only be foolish to think that such changes would spoil the "authenticity" of a universe as mythical as the one in Beauty and the Beast, because at least in this version, the source of most of the fun is LeFou, portrayed to perfection by comedian Gad.

What Beauty and the Beast, amid all its old-world charm, missed was a more compelling villain. Evans actually does not put one foot wrong as Gaston, but a villain like him would not give you anything beyond the ordinary. He is plainly, blindly evil and that is it. He should have remained more in a grey area to stop looking merely like another obstacle. If the tongue-in-cheek, modernized dialogues sells, a polished reenactment of Gaston could, too.

To sum it up, Beauty and the Beast trades cheesiness for unapologetic undertones, a damsel in distress for a feminist and better artistry for crowd pleasing. The Stockholm syndrome is still very much at the core of its narrative, yet as curtains fall, a lot of goodness and beauty can be derived from this colourful musical.

Vighnesh Menon