Ever just the same, ever a surprise: Review of the live action Beauty and the Beast
“Tale as old as time
Song as old as rhyme
Beauty and the Beast”
– “Beauty and the Beast”
*Warning Spoiler: The beast turns into a prince at the end. Sorry! Seriously, no spoilers.
Tonight I went to the pre-showing of the new live-action Beauty and the Beast. I bought my tickets early for the “Fan Event” which translated into your tickets cost more, mostly, though we got awesome drinks and popcorn buckets. At first I was thinking I got gipped, because come on, other theaters in big cities got these really pretty pins, and I got a bucket. But still, there were cushy recliners, assigned seating, and a design to the theater that ensured you would see the movie, no matter how tall or fat headed the person in front of you might be.
My husband, who believe me showed his twu luv by coming with me after I bought him a ticket, was literally the legs of the operation. He went back for the popcorn buckets and the drinks, then again back for the 3-D glasses (who knew it was 3-D?) that the stupidhead ticket guy didn’t tell us to take. The special feature was an interview with the guys working on the score (which I’m sure will be on the DVD) and the Beauty and the Beast music video (which has already been on youtube. Check it out, it’s trippin’.)
In case you are wondering about the Things, they were invited to the movie in the same theater at the same time by some friends whose mother actually shelled out for the tickets. Vile betrayers. Thing Two said she hoped that we weren’t close to each other, to which I responded “So do I. Like I want to be near teen girls giggling.” I mean, seriously, I didn’t. I was however, beside an adorable little girl wearing a Belle dress and sparkly shoes. More on her later.
When the movie started, any complaints I might have had vanished. Any other thoughts I had vanished as well. No more political stupidity, no more stress, no more worries, for a little over an hour. Just as I was during my Thing One’s starring role (she was a spoon) in the high school Beauty and the Beast musical, I was transfixed. I was pretty sure my husband was over there, but I didn’t check to see. I did not peel my eyes from the screen.
Was the movie good? Well, I suppose part of it depends on whether you liked the original movie, or Disney period. Though I feel I must point out that the guy playing Gaston is evil but extremely hot, and Emma Watson is obviously beautiful. So you know, there’s something for everybody. Well most people. There were some who, for hateful reasons you can easily discover with a quick Google click, refused to take their unfortunate children to the movie. (Hint: It’s seriously not a big deal and I doubt the kids will notice, parents.) Disney is feeling the hurt, people, I mean with sold out theaters long before the movie began, gosh I’m not sure what they will do!
I was already obsessed long before the movie came out, thanks to them announcing it like ten years early. When the merchandise came out, I completely restrained myself and did not buy a thing. I bought several things. Though not enough to break my budget, so no naysayers. I’ve had my fill of naysayers, most of them found on Disney fan boards. Go away, false fans. Because this was not just a movie. This was an incredible movie, with the ability to make me feel, at forty years old, the awe and wonder and beauty of the film I first watched at fourteen.
It’s a story that is – well not as old as time, I don’t think the dinosaurs did musicals. But close. It’s been retold millions of ways. I love all of them. The heart of the story is always the same – see beyond appearances, for beauty is found within. It is a lesson many people need to take to heart, now more than ever, as they dismiss people based on the color of their skin, the place they grew up, the religion they believe, the people they love. Belle does not fall in love with the Beast as soon as she sees him. She thinks he’s a jerk, since he acts like a jerk. But as she spends time with him, gets to know him, she sees beyond the outside, beyond her first impressions. She finds he is not so different than herself.
“Barely even friends
Then somebody bends
This movie had a lot to live up to, as the original Disney cartoon of Beauty and the Beast is a beloved classic, the only animated feature to be nominated for an Academy Award. I believe it lived up to the original, keeping close with the story, but with twists. For one thing, it briefly mentions why no one realized there was a freaking castle and royalty nearby. That had been bugging me for years! There are also so many touching moments. Like Belle and her father, and their love for each other, and ostracism from a town of people with no imagination, no vision into the future. I know people like those in this “poor provincial town” and – I cannot imagine living that way, with no stories in your head, no new ideas.
They didn’t forget the talking furniture and appliances. They are done in CGI, which some have complained is awful, because they probably come from Belle’s town and can’t see beyond pixels. Though they are very different in appearance than the Disney version, they absolutely fascinated me. Disney created an atmosphere much more conducive to 18th century France. I work in archives, so I tend to like old stuff. The costumes, the enchanted objects, the castle, the town, all of it is very true to the time period. Now some complained that Belle’s dress is too modern, and that lousy feminist Emma Watson should have worn a proper corset. First of all, Belle’s dress is more modern because she’s Belle, always looking to the future, never having to fit in, and also because Emma didn’t want the depiction of unrealistic figures. I for one didn’t even notice, probably because Emma is naturally so thin she doesn’t even need a corset.
Yet with all the beauty, the incredible special effects and imaginative sets, none of it matters if you do not love the characters. And you do love these characters. There is Gaston, the handsome idiot, harmless enough until for the first time he doesn’t get what he wants. The household objects are all lovable as well, which allow you to look past the fact that they aren’t actually on the screen. Emma talked to nothing a lot. There is the Beast, punished severely for his arrogance, filled with anger and despair, but who still has enough humanity to save Belle from a pack of wolves. And there is Belle, who could have escaped when the Beast was attacked, but her morality, her inner goodness, compels her to help nurse the Beast back to health. It starts with small acts of kindness, which lead to more of these acts, more closeness, and more understanding of both themselves and each other, for you cannot love without knowing who you are first. And, as Belle points out, you cannot love unless you are free.
“It is sweet and strange
Finding you can change
Learning you were wrong.”
I’ll admit it. I cried during this movie, with my hands up by my mouth. I cried on the way home. But I wasn’t depressed. They were tears of absolute joy, for this is a story I have written myself, all my life, in books that are never quite good enough, that I have never dared show to any but one friend, that I have never tried to publish, that so often, I say I never have time to work on. But the stories in my head never go away. They are there, urging me on, even as I try to ignore them. But tonight, in the little girl in the Belle dress, I saw not just my girls when they were younger, but I saw myself. The whole world ahead, every day filled with magic, with possibility. I watched as she tried to grab the flakes of gold that shot out of the screen at you. And I delighted when the credits rolled, the song played, and she danced so passionately in the aisle.
It’s time to remember that little girl, or boy, that’s inside you. It’s time to listen to the voice that speaks to you, I mean, as long as it’s not an actual voice you understand. It is simply time for us to find the beauty within ourselves and each other, to love instead of hate, to make the world a better place for the little girls dancing in the aisles, lost in dreamland.