Review: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Note: This review contains spoilers. If you have not seen the film yet, and would like to remain unknowing about how it is different from the animated film, it is probably best to stop reading right now.

I went to see Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast yesterday. I went in the middle of the day, and there were only six or so people in the theater. After the film was over I sat myself down in a nearby coffee shop and made some very messy notes about my thoughts and reactions. This blog post is based on those notes, expanded into paragraphs and fleshed out a bit. These thoughts are kind of all over the place and not at all in chronological order, because I’m still processing. I cleaned up/condensed/moved around some of my notes to make my thoughts more coherent.

I have to admit that I teared up when Belle sang “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere.” This line always gets me because I want her to have her adventure so badly, and I hate that she feels stuck. I was not, however, expecting it to actually make my eyes water with emotion. So. I’ve heard complaints about this shot being very similar to the beginning of The Sound of Music. I totally see the connection, but for some reason I don’t have a huge problem with it.

“Be Our Guest” was a huge disappointment. Usually this musical number fills me with joy and makes me want to get up and dance with full live-theater-show-on-Broadway enthusiasm. But not this time. I was not impressed with the singing, or this scene in general, which is why I was so disappointed. I was a bit upset when Cogsworth joined in the fun, because it seemed very out of character.

“Be Our Guest” always makes me question how many members of the castle staff there were to be caught up in the curse. Because there are a lot of animate plates and cups and silverware, but none of them have faces. If I’m remembering correctly, there were some references to other movies in the visuals of this scene, and they annoyed me, because I feel like this movie should have stood on its own more. I know this makes me hypocritical, because earlier I said I didn’t have a problem with the The Sound of Music reference, but for some reason the references here annoyed me when the The Sound of Music reference didn’t.

In general, I really appreciate all of the extra backstory we were given of Belle and her parents, as well as the backstory we’re give of the Beast and his parents. While audience members of the animated film assumed that the missing parents were dead, it was nice to have it acknowledged in this version, and that the characters were affected by the deaths. And seeing the curse be put in place in the prologue was great too. I much prefer this to the animated version.

Speaking of the curse; I have some thoughts on the Enchantress. I really like that the Enchantress sticks around after the prologue. I have more sympathy for her, and I understand her and her motivations a bit more. But, I would still love to know more about her and why she decided to curse the Beast. I get that she wanted to teach the Beast a lesson since he was so selfish and unkind, but it still seems extreme to pull the castle staff into it by curing them too, as well as erasing memories from the villagers. I have to commend the actress who played The Enchantress/Agatha; her performance was very powerful, and she didn’t even have any lines.

So, the thing I was most riled up about before seeing the film: LeFou being gay. I was upset when they announced this, because if they really wanted to have positive representation, they should have had Cogsworth be gay, and Lumière be bi. LeFou’s character wasn’t a train wreck in the way I anticipated, and he did change sides at the end. And I get that standing up to Gaston could have brought serious repercussions for LeFou. I get why he was scared to stand up to Gaston. But I really would have loved to see him admit that Gaston left Maurice for dead. The villagers in the tavern would have intervened if Gaston lashed out in that moment.

And perhaps the villagers would have been slower to follow Gaston to the castle. I also understand that LeFou was pining after Gaston, which contributed to why he didn’t stand up to him sooner. Watching LeFou pine after Gaston was utterly painful. Also, the “exclusively gay” moment was so quick that I almost missed it. It was great to see LeFou dancing with another man, Stanley, but again it was very quick and I think it was made out to be a bigger deal than it actually was.

Speaking of Stanley. During the fight at the castle Madame Gardrobe dressed up the three guys in dresses. Two of them run off screaming because they found wearing dresses embarrassing, but Stanley smiles straight to camera with a look on his face that implies he enjoys wearing a dress and makeup. I can’t tell if this was done for laughs, or if it had good intentions behind it. No one in the theater when I saw the film laughed during this part, but one person did clap excitedly. There were only about six of us in the theater though, so I don’t know what sort of reactions would have happened if there were more people.

Also, it kind of bugs me that the castle staff is named after what their cursed forms are. They had lives before the curse and “Chip” and “Madame Gardrobe” and “Lumière” and “Cogsworth” are all somewhat strange names, and oh so very convenient to their cursed forms.

Some of the singing was disappointing. As mentioned above, I was not impressed with “Be Our Guest.” The music/singing during the prologue didn’t sound super great to me either. This could have partly been because I felt like the prologue was too fast paced. I get that they wanted to move on to the main part of the story, but they could have slowed it down just a bit, and I think I would have enjoyed it more. (Edit: I think perhaps the sound quality in the theater is partly to blame here; I have since listened to the prologue again, and it sounded much better.) Emma Watson’s singing was better than I expected it would be, which I’m happy about, because if Belle’s singing wasn’t pleasant it would have been a huge bummer. The “Gaston” song was also a bit of a let down. At some points, when the entire tavern was singing there were too many voices and not enough enunciation, and it was hard to understand what was being sung.

The library was super impressive, but not as impressive as the animated one. Belle’s excitement at all of the books was very cute. The way she sort of giggled excitedly and covered her mouth when the Beast turned his back was so great. This scene was especially touching because in the village she only had access to like six books.

In this version Gaston was even more despicable than he was in the animated version. It’s clear that being in a war had an affected him in some way, and I don’t want to diminish the pain being at war can cause people, and the effects it has on people. The movie suggests that Gaston actively enjoyed being at war, that he enjoyed the fighting and killing. He clearly has anger issues, which when combined with his past in a war setting, makes me think that PTSD could come into play. But I do get the impression that Gaston’s anger and taste for violence preceded his time at war. And, at any rate, PTSD may explain Gaston’s anger and certain actions, but it does not excuse anything. Gaston left Maurice for dead, tied to a tree in the woods that house vicious wolves. He continued to pursue Belle after she turned him down. His mistreated LeFou. Any ridiculous aspects of Gaston from the animated version were stripped away here, and I hate Gaston so much more in this version. And I hated him A LOT in the animated film.

In the lead up to the release of the film, Belle’s yellow dress got a lot of negative reactions. And while I never hated the dress like some people did, I never loved it either. But it moved really nicely when she danced, and that’s the most important thing to me.

When I look at my notes about the “Tale As Old As Time” ballroom scene, all it says is “damn, dance scenes always get me.” You would be hard pressed to find a scene that takes place in a ballroom with dancing and pretty clothes that I don’t like. However, I was upset with how much screen time was dedicated to showing off the pretty ballroom. Yes, it’s a pretty ballroom, but I think that the focus should have stayed on Belle and the Beast.

I really like that the village was called “Villeneuve.” It’s a nice little nod to the original story’s author. (Unlike with Frozen, where they took original author’s name and gave it to the asshole. I only bring this up to say that I was pleasantly surprised, both that they gave a nod to the original Beauty and the Beast author (whom most people forget about/are unaware of) and that the nod was a nice one. I mean yes, the villagers in said town aren’t the nicest people to Belle and Maurice, but that’s not the village’s fault.)

I enjoyed the new songs. “Evermore,” the song Beast sang stands out most to me. I really like that the Beast has a song to sing that is all his own, because it gives him much depth. It’s definitely a different vibe than the song the Beast sings in the Broadway musical; both are good songs, but I get why they couldn’t include both, as each song characterized the Beast in a slightly different way. I also really enjoyed “How Does a Moment Last Forever.” It’s a really bittersweet moment, and Kevin Kline performed it very well. “Days in the Sun” is also nice, though my least favorite of the new songs.

I really enjoyed how Maurice’s character is more fleshed out. It’s much more clear that he cares about Belle a lot, and that he wants to take care of her and protect her. The father-daughter relationship was so much stronger in this version.

The final scene was enjoyable for the most part. Belle’s dress was very pretty. And there was dancing, so you know I enjoyed it. But. Belle’s line of “How would you feel about growing a beard?” made me cringe. It’s hard for me to put my finger on why, exactly, but I’m pretty sure it has to do with the fact that the whole movie (at least how I view it) operates on the fact that Belle breaks the curse because she loves the Beast for his personality, not his looks. So to have physical appearance brought into it like that just didn’t sit right with me.

I really like the conversations between Belle and the Beast that were added to this version. They illustrated the connection between them, and made it much more believable that Belle fell in love with beast. Although I suppose the fact that the Beast’s face is much more human-like than it was in the animated version helps with this too.

The look/aesthetic of the movie was very pretty and nice to look at. And that’s all I really have to say about that.

In the final scene and the credits I finally felt the emotional connection I was waiting for the entire movie. I’m sure nostalgia played a huge part in this. I went into the theater with such a low bar that the movie did rise above it, but only because of certain parts/aspects I did enjoy (and nostalgia). Overall the movie was just “meh” for me; some parts I loved, some parts I hated, but it didn’t enchant me.

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