Beauty and the Beast (d. Bill Condon USA/UK 2017)

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis at the bottom for any who wish to see one.

Entertainment:

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Performances:

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Predictability:

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Technical:

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Introduction – A Brief History

 

Tale as old as time. The 1870 novel is just that, it’s as if a fairy-tale going back thousands of years. Now there have been many film versions of this tale ranging the magic sophistication of La Belle et la Bete (d. Jean Cocteau France 1946) to the entertaining and gothic musical of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast  (d. Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise USA 1991). Disney’s animated classic won an Oscar and made history as the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Now Beauty and the Beast (d. Bill Condon USA/UK 2017) knows this, knows this very well. The 1991 film is a beloved film by so many and is a personal favourite. Disney have had some success with their live action remakes within the past seven years and this trend just seems to be growing – despite criticism. Continuing themes of nostalgia, it was almost inevitable that Beauty and the Beast was going to be given the same treatment. Boasting a strong cast and a $160million budget and being a passionate project for cast and crew (Emma Watson has said it’s a childhood favourite too); the 2017 film quickly became a film to look forward to. My reaction is certainly complex.

The Look

 

Now many sequels tend to follow a path of explaining backstories that don’t need to be explained and most remakes go through a ‘modern update’ that can sometimes be questionable. A lot of the similar occurs here. The CGI is good but shows some movement problems. Costume and sets are good but aren’t always to taste – reflecting a modern twist. These become true criticisms when you notice the lifeless and unrealistic ways the characters mimic the original. Cute characters aren’t cute in the baroque steel style and the colourful musicals become melodrama not the cartoon animated gothic sadness. Though many scenes do try as they do to recapture the magic of the 1991 film, giving it a nostalgic value to entertain and dazzle audiences. However, some moments completely miss their mark. SPOILERS: “Let’s see what I’ve got in my drawers, how embarrassing”, “Come into the light” lacking authentic fear with awkward line delivery, Gaston’s (Luke Evans) lack of physical prowess for his own musical number and “I thought I told you to come down to dinner” showing similar awkward delivery (also undermined by the Beast (Dan Stevens) not giving her a room. This stops any building of chemistry to just make the change from anger to kindness jarring.) END OF SPOILERS.

A Change for the Better?

 

Continuing with the changes, as every remake feels like they have to add something! We see the fault of the sequels in backstories. Do we really need origin stories for the characters? Do we need every character to be interconnected? In favour of the changes there are nice moments of chemistry to come later on with Belle (Emma Watson) and the Beast. As said before the cast are very strong and most handle their rolls very well. Sometimes they make the characters into better than what the script allows (Gaston and LeFou (Josh Gad) are good examples). Emma Watson gives strength to Belle but is an odd choice for the fragility also important to Belle – she hardly seems sad or frightened when she needs to be. More for personal taste but Beasts arrogance runs the risk of making him un-relatable or even un-likeable for any sympathy to be with his position, though they don’t give much time to his agony at the situation either – which could have really helped this position.

Or a Change for the Worse?

 

Some changes actually really undermine the film, significantly Gaston. In becoming so mean spirited he breaks himself from ever being a character that people could follow. This changes the theme from Belle’s struggle with judgment to a struggle with Gaston as a representation of evil and not as a flawed character, as was with the 1991 film. MAJOR SPOILERS: Leaving Maurice (Kevin Kline) to die and having LeFou question his way in a forced character arc, that also sees LeFou pay bystanders to get involved with the ‘Gaston’ number, really damages Gaston’s character. Furthermore, the decision to have Gaston shoot Beast in the back from afar, rather than stab Beast creates one of the greatest moments of Deux Ex Machina to befall an antagonist’s death. END OF SPOILERS.

Conclusion

 

Beauty and the Beast (2017) almost paradoxically can show how staying true to the sauce can show some powerful moments of stunning nostalgia to save a film; whilst also how adding something can be beneficial (more chemistry between the title characters) …but it also has the faults of this. Changes can undermine and harm the films potential, whilst backstories can feel forced and unnecessary like in most sequels. Staying true to the sauce, however, can show how the Beauty and the Beast (2017) couldn’t live up to those moments it was recreating. Ultimately the film looks amazing and the nostalgia is enough to make the film very entertaining. That being said, Beauty and the Beast (2017) isn’t the rose within but the rose on the outside.

Synopsis

A prince in a castle is given a curse after being unkind to a beautiful enchantress disguised as a hag. He is to live life as a beast and his subjects turned into objects. He is to find true love in spite of his appearance or remain this way forever. Belle lives in a village misunderstood by her peers and to save her father from being imprisoned by the beast, who caught her father stealing a rose, agrees to be imprisoned instead.

Further Reading

rottentomatoes.com

metacritic.com

Official site

Interview with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens

Interview with Bill Condon

Interview with Emma Watson

Castle is Your Home Comparison

The Fairytale Curse

Making of Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Behind the Scenes of Beauty and the Beast (2017) and Secrets

Some of the Changes

List of Disney Live-Action Remakes

Why Now?

Stockholm Syndrome?

The Beauty of Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bete

Beauty and the Beast (d. Bill Condon USA/UK 2017)



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