Along with the millions of fans, I have been awaiting the release of Bill Condon’s live action Beauty and the Beast. As one of my favourite Disney movies, I watched all of the teasers and followed the production of the movie. Finally, after waiting for months upon months, I have seen the feature, and these are my thoughts on Beauty and the Beast.
1. Baroque, Baby!
With the original novel by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve being published in 1740, I had hoped that the live action movie would be set in a similar period and Bill Condon most definitely delivered. With the breathtaking powdered wig scene at the opening of the film, to Stanley Tucci playing the role of a harpsichord, instead of the expected piano; the music, costume and plot fits effortlessly into the 18th century backdrop.
2. Oh, Le Fou.
Josh Gad is quickly becoming the sidekick sweetheart of Hollywood. With a set of lungs and a wholesome humour about him, Gad brings to life a much loved character from the 1991 animated feature. The somewhat unsurprising gay twist in Le Fou’s character is becoming of the character and draws on traits of the 1991 character. The dance scene in the tavern truly shows Gad at his finest. However, his turmoil around the matters of Gaston and Maurice gives the character depth, finally turning him from sidekick to independent man in the battle scene. This wonderfully character portrayal is finally topped off with Gad in the arms of an unsuspecting man. This subtle conclusion of Le Fou’s storyline is a triumph for Disney’s representation, and no doubt an inspiration for countless fanfictions.
3. Casting, Casting, Casting.
Now, I was one of the many sceptics that distrusted the choice of Emma Watson as Belle, and even, to a certain extent, Dan Stevens as Beast. However, Watson is not Hermione anymore and her portrayal of Belle as a strong, feminist woman is a breath of fresh air. Her depth of emotion and connection with the character brings forth a beautiful leading role. Dan Stevens, perhaps unknown to people outside of the UK, but hailed as Matthew Crawley in British homes shows his true acting prowess, portraying a touching character development through CGI and other special effects. His character gives the 1991 character a run for his money for the place in fans’ hearts. However, the true triumph in casting is with Luke Evans as Gaston, who seems to be a true incarnation of the brash officer, Josh Gad as Le Fou (whom we have spoken about), Sir Ian McKellen as Cogsworth and Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts. This classic line up brings class and elegance to the feature. A mention must also be made to Ewan McGregor as Lumiere. I was incredibly sceptical with the Scotsman playing the French candelabra. But, who can argue with the “Be Our Guest” scene? Truly, McGregor brings a playful charm to the movie that would be truly missed if left out. The representation of POC in the movie is also a massive step in the right direction for Disney. They should be congratulated for including POC and ignoring their critics who suggest that it is not historically accurate. The diversity of the cast is a massive step forward for Disney.
4. Storyline and Plot
We all know the story of the 1991 Beauty and the Beast. However, the 2017 version builds on many areas that are left alone in the animated movie. For example, the storyline based around Belle’s Mother provides contextual, historically accurate content, but also the opportunity for Maurice’s character development. Also, Belle herself being an inventor once again brings a feminist tone to the movie, providing Belle herself with an occupation. The included backstory surrounding the Beast provides information about his development which is missed out in the 1991 version. This background promotes empathy for the Beast, as it is explained that he was not born the way he is, but was made that way.
5. Production Paradise.
Well, where can I start? The set design? The beautiful use of CGI with Dan Stevens? The array of stunning costume? Jacqueline Durran has truly outdone herself, bringing to the production that Disney calibre of costume. The yellow ball gown alone is enough to take one’s breath away. I personally have a preference for the royal ceremonial dress, appearing at the end of the movie. However, even the underclothes of Belle and the costumes of the Bimbettes is beautifully accurate to the time. The set design, both of the village and of the castle is breathtakingly intricate. The music adds drama and reveals voices that we didn’t know some of the actors’ had (Where did that come from, Dan Stevens?) All in all making the movie a true spectacle and a delight for the senses.
I was sceptical about this movie, about the aesthetic and the actors. However, my scepticism has been blown away. Bill Condon has done a brilliant job giving Beauty and the Beast the old fashion Disney feel. I shall most definitely be buying another ticket to see the live action for a second time and I would recommend this movie to any Disney lover.
What are your thoughts?