It’s a tale as old as time…
Beauty and the Beast was my all-time favourite Disney movie as a child, and is still to this day. I love the songs, I love the romance and the action, and of course, how bad-ass Belle is. When I first heard that Beauty and the Beast was getting a live action remake I was excited but also apprehensive. Was my favourite movie going to be butchered?
I can now safely say that that is not that case. The Beauty and the Beast film is fantastic. It is true to the original but it also has its own charm and meaningful additions.
If you don’t already know the story, Belle is a beautiful young woman living in a small provincial village in France. She is considered strange by the other villagers as she is well-read and headstrong. She is being pursued by the town’s most eligible bachelor, Gaston, but Belle repeatedly turns down his marriage proposals because she knows that he wouldn’t make her happy. Belle lives with her father, an artist as her mother passed away when she was a baby, although her father won’t tell her how. Belle’s father, Maurice, sets off for a trip to the market to sell his wares, promising to bring Belle back a rose.
On the way, Maurice is caught in a storm and strays away from the normal path. He stumbles upon a castle and heads inside to seek shelter. Inside he was unable to find a host to introduce himself to, but instead meets a talking teacup. He is so frightened that he runs away and decides to return home, but stops when he sees a rose to pick for Belle. Suddenly he is confronted by a beast who takes him prisoner for being a thief.
Belle is worried when his horse returns to the village without him, and sets off to find her father. She meets The Beast and takes her father’s place as The Beast’s prisoner. She makes friends with the help who have all been turned into household items by a curse placed on the entire castle. She tries to escape but ends up falling in love with The Beast, which makes Gaston jealous and brings the entire wrath of the village upon the castle… but will she be able to break the spell?
Emma Watson makes the perfect Belle. She is beautiful, but also fearless. She brings an air of vulnerability and wonderment to the role which is generally only achieved by animated Disney princesses, but somehow she manages it. This version also develops Belle’s character in a lot more detail. It helps to explain the growing romance between Belle and The Beast and makes it much more believable.
The Beast becomes more lovable as the film progresses, and his dialogue is surprisingly quick witted and he is quite funny. Dan Steven humanises The Beast, making the entire enchantment more believable. The movie has beautiful costumes and set design. Every single item is not surplus but also so intricate. The animated household staff are beautifully designed and the actors who voice them add so much, despite being barely seen.
The movie had a surprising push towards social issues which I didn’t expect, despite hearing about it in the hype before the film was released. Belle is very clearly a feminist and wants to change the way woman are viewed in her village. She does this by teaching young girls how to read, which she is punished for. Gaston’s side kick LeFou was clearly gay and pined after him. It seemed clear that Gaston was aware of LeFou’s inclination and accepted him as his closest companion all the same.
There are more songs in this film than there were in the animated original. I was mildly frustrated that I couldn’t sing along, but the new songs added to the overall success of the movie and assist in helping this film stand on its own. The entire film stayed so true to the original animated film but somehow made it better. I had goose bumps from the moment I heard the opening strains of the movie and I cried during the ballroom scene. Actually, I cried twice. Sometimes you just need to go with how the movie made you feel, and I left the cinema smiling and in a daze, singing a tale as old as time in my head as I walked back to my car.