Article By: Alice-Ginevra Micheli
From acclaimed director Bill Condon comes the reimagining of the “tale as old as time,” Beauty and the Beast. I’m sure most, if not all of you reading already know the story, where an intelligent young woman, Belle (Emma Watson) finds herself the prisoner of a Beast (Dan Stevens) in an enchanted and mysterious castle.
From the outset let me admit something, the original 1991 classic is my favorite Disney movie of all time, so to say that my expectations were at their peak is an understatement. The trailers had me excited, and the soundtrack increased my anticipation and the stakes were at an all time high… but boy, did it deliver.
Watching the film was an experience in nostalgia and surprise, where I was elated by familiar dialogue and story beats, and astounded by certain new additions. Having said that, this isn’t an experience that will be shared by everyone.
It’s difficult to dissect a film such as this, which is essentially a very faithful remake of an animated original. Most of the plot remains the same, the songs everyone knows are there in some form or another, and the characters all do exactly as they’re meant to, when they’re meant to.
One thing to emphasize on is the production and costume design. These were colorful sets often found in Broadway shows, and there was clearly a lot of thought and care put into bringing it all to life. Each costume has personality pieces that perfectly line up with each character’s quirks, as well as staying faithful to the time period in which it all takes place. In a similar vein, the sets, from the quaint village to the magnanimous castle all compliment the story as well as take the audience on a visual journey all on its own. The intricate detail hidden everywhere would make repeat viewings of the film exciting, allowing you to discover something new every time.
The score also plays a big part in its success, spinning a flawless web of musicality. Coming once again from the genius that is Alan Menken, the additional instrumental pieces flow in and out of scenes to accentuate what is needed while also providing a strong emotional backdrop. Emphasizing the chameleon-like nature of string instruments, while also using familiar vignettes from the film’s defining songs, the orchestration takes it to another level of entertainment that is difficult to find in today’s movie landscape.
Also of note are the performances, ones that people have been wary, worrying and anxious about since the casting was announced.
Watson delivers a solid performance as the heroine of this story. A more subdued performance than I expected, she still manages to translate the stubborn, yet kind, character into one who is relatable and realistic in her own sense. However, I will say, that there were times where I found myself wanting more emotional responses from her to accurately reflect the magic and absurdity of her newfound situation in the castle.
Stevens is also reputable in his turn as the intimidating Beast. Covered in prosthetics and CGI, it was impressive that his performance was still able to evoke emotion, as well as develop a character, that would allow the audience to fall in love with him as much as Belle does. However, I should also comment on the fact that at times the CGI does make itself known in some of his facial and body movements, which distracted from the story a bit.
The staff of the castle, including Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson and Ian McKellen, all act as both comedic relief and exposition tellers, adding their own personal inflections to well known characters.
The two to focus on, however are Luke Evans and Josh Gad as Gaston and LeFou respectively. Evans delivers an inspired performance, where his impressive pipes and arrogant swagger perfectly resonates with the rugged captain we all know and love to hate. Meanwhile, Gad adds a new flair to LeFou which makes him actually resemble a person, who the audience can both relate to and enjoy on screen as he acts as Gaston’s personal errand boy.
Now, I may be gushing all over the place, commenting on how, overall, I had a very wonderful experience, but this film is not what I’d call perfect. There were certain aspects that felt rushed. I commented above on the less-than-desirable CGI, but there is also something to be said for certain editing and pacing issues that occur throughout. Furthermore, in an attempt to relive the illustriousness of the Disney classic, the film doesn’t quite find its own footing. Choosing to sacrifice originality and individuality for familiarity and sentimentality, which might leave some viewers questioning why they bothered to watch this version.
Overall, Beauty and the Beast is probably what you expect it to be. If you’re a fan of the original, anxious to see it in a new light with the addition of a few surprises, then this is the film for you. This is one for your inner child, playing strongly on your nostalgia and your love of magic and music, and forevermore, a classic tale as old as time.