Beauty and the Beast: There is something there that wasn’t there before

Disney’s big live- action adaption of the 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast brings an amazing nostalgia trip that will guarantee you to love the tale as old as time. It has it’s flaws, but there is definitely something there to enjoy for the whole family.

Emma Watson, famous for playing Hermione in the Harry Potter franchise and for her feminism, stars as Belle. Watson has transformed the classical princess into a feminist even in the seemingly smallest of details; Watson refused to wear a corset as her interpretation of Belle is an active princess. Also Watson did not want to reinforce a “corseted, impossible idea of female beauty” according to the costume designer Jacqueline Durran. Watson brought Belle into the 21st century, unfortunately she lacks spark and her energy is low in comparison to the other actors, making her performance dull and subdued.

Instead it’s the vain villain Gaston, Luke Evans, and his sidekick LeFou, Josh Gad, who steals the show. The chemistry between the actors shine through the screen and will make you laugh out loud. Beauty and the Beast is not only a musical but also a comedy; and a surprisingly great one at that. The renditions of the classical songs are fresh and seminal at the same time as they honour the original. You will be singing them for days. Some actor’s voices are better than others, but that does not squash the film; in fact it grounds it and make it more believable by not being a Broadway- style musical.

What the new version does so beautifully is to explains the plot holes that the fans have been wondering about since the 1991 original. Why’s there a bookstore in Belle’s town when she’s the only one that reads? How can a whole town forget their Prince (the Beast) when he suddenly disappears? The potholes are naturally covered and all the characters are given greater depth; both Belle’s and the Beast’s backstories are explored, Gaston and LeFou’s actions are given deeper motivation and the relationships between the Beast’s servants are explored. Some new characters are introduced. Beauty and the Beast has a star packed cast: Dan Stevens plays the Beast, Ewan McGregor plays Lumiére, Ian McKellen Cogsworth and Emma Thompson plays Mrs. Potts, to name a few. It is marvelous to see them pop in and out as animated furniture.  

Unfortunately “the exclusively gay moment” that director Bill Condon promised is practically nonexistent. It flies by in a flash and if you blink you’ll have missed it. But still, it’s a victory that it’s there (You can listen to me talking about it here on Swedish radio). In true rococo style, Beauty and the Beast is at times a bit too much. The extravagant musical number “Be our Guest” is visually confusing; too much is happening at the same time. Three new songs have been written by the original composer Alan Menken and while there is nothing wrong with them, they feel superfluous. These songs stop the story that you know so well from moving forward smoothly.

Beauty and the Beast is a great escape from reality and a fresh, feminist, take on the classical tale that’s as old as time. With the success of Beauty and the Beast and the Oscar winner La la land this will hopefully be the time for the revival of the grand Hollywood musicals.



Click the pictures for the source, featured image source here.


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