Female heroines are the rage these days…

Here is a review I wrote about “Beauty & The Beast” for the OUR TOWN JUNE 2017 – Blue edition. (https://issuu.com/ourtownmag/docs/otm_june2017_blue_webbeauty and the beast review

Beauty and the Beast (2017) has it all: music, action, and a worthy heroine

By Heidi Campbell

Once in a while, a film comes along that crushes the barriers of critical reasoning and astounds audiences with heartwarming characters, hair raising action, beautiful music, magical sets, and epic romance.  Beauty and The Beast, released in March of 2017, was produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Mandeville Films. The film, which breathes new life into a timeworn fairy tale, raked in nearly half a billion dollars at the box office in its first month. The story incorporates all the elements that make fairy tales so engaging:  a heedless royal in need of moral overhaul, an enchantress who casts a spell, a virtuous hero, a host of personified inanimate objects, an evil villain, and a kind, single father who raises his daughter with unyielding love.  Transformations weave their way into nearly every ounce of the film, and beautiful music scores transition, adding magic and meaning to the scenes.

The film wastes no time in transforming a French Prince, played by Dan Stevens, into the Beast- a just dessert for a man who cruelly casts away an old woman seeking shelter.  The Beast, who struggles to adjust to his cursed, isolated castle life, becomes angry and withdrawn.  His previous subjects, who have all been transformed into household objects, are his only company: a talking candelabra named Lumiere, played by Ewan McGregor; Cogsworth the mantle clock, played by Ian McKellen; a motherly teapot, Mrs. Potts, played by Emma Thompson; and Mrs. Pott’s son Chip the teacup, played by Nathan Mack.  Like all good fairy tale curses, this one teaches a lesson, but thankfully doesn’t last forever.

The music in the film is at once beautiful, challenging, moving, and plot driven.  In a tiny French village, a girl named Belle, played by Emma Watson, lives with her father Maurice, played by Kevin Kline. The audience quickly learns of her reputation through the townspeople as they sing “Belle”, which highlights the fact that she’s a little different from the rest:  “But behind that fair façade/I’m afraid she’s rather odd/Very different from the rest of us/ She’s nothing like the rest of us/ Yes, different from the rest of us is Belle!”

Kudos to the producers of the film for creating a heroine in Belle; she is a self-proclaimed bibliophile and a fantastic role model for modern youth! She is a young woman who stands up for herself, loves her family, appreciates that beauty comes from within, and is proud of her intellect.  She is a strong-willed woman. When the evil Gunter, played by Luke Evans, tries to demand her hand in marriage, she’ll have none of it! “When we return to the village, you’ll marry me,” says Gaston. “Never!” she tells him boldly.

When Maurice returns from a delivery, he takes a wrong turn and ends up imprisoned by the Beast. Belle acts quickly to come to his aid, which is precisely how she finds herself in the castle of the Beast. The objects of the house quickly welcome her with excitement and humor. “Cogsworth, look! A beautiful girl!” says Lumiere. “Yes, I can see it’s a beautiful girl you fool! I’ve lost my hands, not my eyes!” responds Cogsworth. These two characters play off each other throughout the film with memorable wit.

Beauty befriends the castle’s characters and eventually the Beast as well. Belle begins to see a softer side of the Beast, and is overwhelmed by his enormous library and appreciation of Shakespeare. In her song “Something There”, Belle explores her emerging feelings singing, “There’s something sweet and almost kind/But he was mean and he was coarse and unrefined/And now he’s dear and so I’m sure/ I wonder why I didn’t see it there before?” She has the endearing ability to look beyond the physical monstrosity of the Beast.

Belle seems to naturally transition into the role of a princess, even before Madame Garderobe, played by Audra McDonald, whips her up a gown.  The Beast, who up to her arrival was harsh and angry, completely transitions into a softer character. Belle has the power to soften his entire demeanor, and he shares his feelings in “Evermore” singing, “Now I know she’ll never leave me/ Even as she runs away/ she will still torment me/ calm me, hurt me/ move me, come what may/ wasting in my lonely tower/ waiting by an open door/ I’ll fool myself, she’ll walk right in/ and be with me for evermore.”

The audience is completely enamored with the couple as their relationship develops. While the world knows how the age-old story ends, there are several surprises to this rendition that bring the action to a wild climax that will shock and excite even the most prepared viewer. Good battles evil, and lessons are learned. Even the anticipated happy ending is happier than one expects. Love wins. The Beast transitions back into the handsome Prince, the staff is reunited in human form, and Beauty is rewarded for her moral virtue with a life beyond her dreams.

Belle, earlier in the film, asked “How Does A Moment Last Forever?” In the end, the reprise of that song answers that question: “Sometimes our happiness is captured/ Somehow, our time and place stand still/Love lives on inside our hearts and always will/ Minutes turn to hours,/ days to years and gone/ But when all else has been forgotten/ Still our song lives on.” 

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