Film Reviews

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

By • Mar 10th, 2017 •

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Watson is woefully miscast. She has no charisma and does not seem to enjoy being the much beloved fairy tale heroine.
Beauty and the Beast is a fairy tale written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740. Disguised as a fairy tale, it was a fable about the conditions of women in her time. Disney’s versions have no social message. Being beautiful is still rewarded. The three unattractive women in Belle’s village are ugly inside as well.
The romantic theme of Beauty and the Beast – its what is inside a person, a person’s heart, that is more valuable then the outer surface – suddenly resonated as dishonest to me. The Beast never acknowledges, never repents his heartlessness.
The film begins with a vain Prince (Dan Stevens) holding a lavish ball in his opulent castle. The Prince, bewigged and with a painted face, prances around. His life is filled with luxury and pleasure. While the Prince indulges in every extravagant whim, the village around him lives and toils in poverty.
A rain storm brings an old lady into the festivities, asking for shelter. The ugly hag offers the Prince a rose for his hospitality. Laughing at her, he refuses her gift and denies her shelter.
The Prince’s cruel and selfish behavior causes the old woman to reveal her true self – she’s an enchantress (Hattie Morahan) – and she condemns him to be a beast.
The curse can only be lifted if the Beast can find someone who will fall in love with him. But he never goes anywhere, so how can this happen? Enthralled only by beauty, the Prince could never love an ugly woman, so who could love him looking like a monster?
The Prince is so self-centered that he fails to understand that his cruelty led to his condition. Does he try to redeem himself by caring for the villagers and doing good works?
He sulks and roars.
While the palace falls into disrepair and is erased from the villagers memories, he is still attended to by his servants who, unfortunately, are rewarded for their loyalty by being turned into household appliances. His devoted butler Lumière (voiced by Ewan McGregor) is turned into a candelabra, houseman Cogsworth becomes a clock (Ian McKellen), Mrs. Potts, (Emma Thompson) formerly the head of the castle’s kitchens becomes a teapot, her young son Chip (Nathan Mack) becomes a teacup, and Madame Garderobe (Audra McDonald), the former wardrobe mistress, becomes a cabinet. What did they do to be cursed?
And so it goes on, until a villager, Maurice (Kevin Kline), again someone seeking shelter from a storm, walks into the castle and after an evening of comfort, leaves the next morning with one of the Prince’s roses for his daughter, Belle (Emma Watson).
Clearly, the Prince/Beast hasn’t learned a thing about helping out people in bad weather.
Belle is the village beauty and is pursued by Gaston (Luke Evans). Gaston, like the Prince once was, is only interested in beauty. The fact that Belle reads books and has hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow are meaningless to him. Though the village “catch”, Belle wants nothing to do with him.
Gaston might be a fool, but he is a delicious character, and rightfully, the only handsome man around. And he has status. Gaston has a too-attentive buddy, LeFou (Josh Gad), who clearly worships the beautiful Gaston.
The much talked about “gay character” is taking all the media attention away from Watson and Stevens. LeFou’s personal denouement – showing off his sexual preference – was unnecessary. If the viewer is too young to understand the subtleties of his fawning over Gaston, sitting too close to Gaston, draping himself over Gaston, and looking at Gaston with lustful intentions, the filmmakers chose to include a more obvious declaration.
Belle floats around seemingly unaware of her beauty, but she’s a quiet flower and rather dull. There is not one spark in her.
When the Beast holds her father prisoner, she agrees to take his place. The Beast showers her with clothes and gifts but he does nothing to change his heart. Why should she love him? He not only imprisoned her father, but he suggested to Belle that she take his place.
Directed by Bill Condon with a screenplay by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos, the animation is average. It is the beautiful songs,  composed by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman from the Broadway musical, that are the most enchanting. Menken and his writing partner Tim Rice wrote three new songs for the movie.
Yet it is the rousing musical number by Evans and company and the finale that are really the most enjoyable. Evans is clearly the only one enjoying himself and garners the most attention.
Watson is sadly miscast. She has no fiery ambition or shows a passion for adventure. Shouldn’t Belle at least start to show some desire for the Beast?
As for Stevens,  motion-capture and CGI technology allowed Stevens not to suffer for hours daily in Beast-face. Its probably a well-kept secret how much time Stevens actually spent on the film. And while Stevens – through CGI – attempts to show some endearing qualities through is eyes and weepy dialogue, I kept remembering the pomp and flair of the Prince’s true nature.
For a complete list of Victoria Alexander’s movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes go to:
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/author/author-3571/
Member of the Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com.

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5 Responses »

  1. Watson have no charisma? This is completly absurd. Your review is empty. You seem to dislike the movie for the wrong reasons.

  2. I don’t see how Emma Watson is miscast and not charismatic. She was a perfect Belle to me and she’s very beautiful…

  3. I agree with the Emma Watson part. They could have done with a better actress.

  4. I have yet to see any of Emma Watson’s so-called charisma in any movie. She seems to have two main expressions, annoyed and blank. Sounds like this movie is another disappointing example.

  5. I am dumbfounded why anyone would want to make another version of this as a live action movie except for a buck, at least for the adult side of the audience. Jean Cocteau did it so magnificently in the 1940’s that it’s time to say “This one’s been done” and maybe move on to something original again for a change, Hollywood.

    For Disney to re-create as live action their own Disney animated version which borrowed heavily from Cocteau, anyway, in my opinion, is something so open to ridicule it’s shocking – like jokes about “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast On Ice in 3D”. Or maybe an oblique reference to “The Walking Dead” because these Hollywood remakes of anything that once made a buck are piling up so badly now it’s starting to seem downright ghoulish.

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