May 13, 2017

Beauty and the Beast: Review

I don't know if this is true across the globe, but those new theater seats sure are comfy! You know the ones I'm talking about, the big leather recliners that are all plush and somehow aren't sticky with soda and popcorn? Yeah, those are cool!
Anyway, I got to sit in one of those when I saw Beauty and the Beast in a theater in March. It was on an especially large screen, and my family got there fashionably late so we only saw about 5 minutes of ads instead of the usual 20. So there were two pluses right off the bat!

But the movie itself was great too. True to the previous film (except for the giant elephant in the room, we'll touch on that later), beautiful costuming, and amazing technology. The feeling of fairytale France really came through, especially in the village scenes.

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Despite above appearances, this is NOT a remake of The Sound of Music. But based on this picture, you could've fooled me!
I think we all know the basic storyline, but allow me to refresh your memory: The Beast (aka Dan Stevens aka Mathew Crawley) was once a very vain prince who threw ostentatious parties where people put on cringe-worthy amounts of makeup on. At one of these balls, a woman comes in from a storm and asks for some shelter. The prince scoffs at her and throws her out, at which time the tech crew of the movie gleefully show off their first trick: she turns into a beautiful enchantress, who turns him into a beast, cursing him to stay that way until he finds true love. Everybody from the ballroom runs away, proving that he has no true friends. The servants turn into furniture, and the castle fades from memory (part of the spell).

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Meanwhile, Belle is getting tired of village life, and wishes there was more to read. The song she sings in the village is quite the number, and it's one of my favorite scenes. It's not even sung incredibly well, but the amount of things to look at is astounding!

And then there's Gaston. Readers, I must admit that I really almost liked Gaston in the beginning, almost rooting for him. I mean, at the start he's just a confident guy, more interested in being outside and hunting than academia. And he gives her flowers! As confident as he is, I really think he likes Belle in this movie, whereas in the cartoon it seemed more prevalent that he wanted Belle as another "trophy".

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See?? He gives her really nice flowers too! And the Lydia Bennet in me likes his hunting frock, ok?

Belle will not have him, however. Gaston's confidence is somewhat shaken, but not for long. While he forms Plan B, Belle's father takes a business trip which does not end well. At all. After losing his way and being attacked by terrifying wolves, he manages to stumble upon the long-forgotten castle of the Beast, where the Beast finds and imprisons him for trespassing and stealing (a rose). Phillipe, the faithful horse, gallops back to town to find Belle. Together they go back to the castle, where Belle, seeing her father in failing health in a cold dungeon, freely changes places with him. 

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Things can only look up, and they do. It's a long and beautifully detailed story so I won't describe it all to you, but with a lot of help from the furniture, Belle and the Beast slooowly fall in love. Belle does try to escape at first, but the Beast saves her life from the wolves, and Belle nurses him back to health (he got really beaten up from the awful creatures). This is the first point in the movie where Mathew Crawley starts poking through for me. It's kind of hard to see it, seeing as he is a beast and they lowered his voice artificially, but certain mannerisms and inflections start coming through. The Beast is behaving more like a gentleman! 

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Of course, things have been going too well for too long in the story, so it's time to bring trouble back into it. Belle's father comes into the village tavern where everyone is celebrating Gaston's greatness, and begs them to help free Belle from a beast in a castle. Everyone laughs at him, but Gaston decides to help him, thinking he'll get to marry Belle in return for his aid. But the journey to the castle is long and dangerous, and after getting a firm "no" on marrying Belle, Gaston patience is at an end. He ties Belle's father to a tree and drives off. I no longer like Gaston, you see. 

Meanwhile, Belle and the Beast have their iconic dance in the ballroom. (Belle's dress is rather underwhelming if you ask me, but whatever.) The Beast then allows Belle to see the room with the enchanted rose and mirror. The mirror can take them any place in the world, so together they travel to Belle's birthplace, where the audience discovers the sad truth of her mother's fate. Belle then uses the mirror to find her father. When she discovers what happened to him, the Beast, in love, allows her to find him. And that, my friends, is where our heartstrings pull.

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Belle rushes into town and shows the villagers that the Beast is real through the mirror. They don't react the way Belle thought, however. Instead of releasing Maurice, they lock both Belle and him up, and form a hunting party to kill the Beast. Led by (you guessed it) Gaston.
What follows is the climax of the film; Belle and her father escapes, the furniture defends the castle from the villagers, and Gaston seeks out the Beast, who is too sad over losing Belle to care. But then Belle comes back just in time, the Beast wins, and Gaston loses. Big time.

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Now that it is evident that Belle and the Beast love each other, the spell is broken! Right? Not right. Or at least, not right away. By the time the Beast dies, the last petal has fallen on the rose. One by one the enchanted furniture becomes totally lifeless. And it's super sad, because the servants are now presumably dead. Even the beautiful furniture they inhabited is left out in the rain.
But the enchantress has mysteriously appeared, and once she sees that Belle loves the Beast, she reverses the spell, and all is well. Then the castle becomes beautiful again, and all of the enchanted furniture becomes human. This is probably my favorite special effects part of the movie; it's so cool to see the castle be transformed!  I can't find any good pictures of the castle, but here's something else you'll like:
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The last scene is the beautiful wedding dance:
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So there you have it! I definitely think this movie is worth watching, despite what you've probably heard about LeFou being gay. Yeah, it's squirm-worthy at times, and it's not always terribly subtle. But I like to think of it this way: have we seen movies where two straight people have had sex outside of marriage? I have: Downton Abbey and Northanger Abbey are two examples. In fact, I can't think of a single movie where sin hasn't been involved. That would simply be unrealstic! However, does this mean that I watch these movies for the sin, or to see adultery? Absolutely not! So while we may not agree with the values peppered into this film, I believe that we can still see it in good conscience.

Have you seen Beauty and the Beast animated or live action? What do you think?
What do you think about the messages in this movie? Is there a reason you're not going to see it? (Don't worry I won't yell at you if you don't like what I said!)