When I was a little girl, there was a period of time where I never got out of my Belle dress. You may think I’m kidding, but you can ask my mom – it’s true. I also watched Disney’s 1991 version of Beauty and the Beast over and over for longer than I know. Again, not exaggerating, ask my poor mother who was subjected to watching the same cartoon on repeat for God knows how long.
I was obsessed with the movie and Belle was my hero. As I grew up, entered elementary school and then middle school and even high school, I couldn’t shake the connection I had to her.
Belle and I have a lot in common. We love books, we have always felt a little bit different, and we can be a bit headstrong. It’s not unusual for people say Belle is their favorite princess, but I don’t know if many people feel the aching empathy that I share with her.
When I heard that Disney was going to remake Beauty and the Beast into a live-action movie starring Emma Watson as Belle, I almost lost my mind. Actually, no, I did lose my mind. I did. In my mind, Emma Watson is the real life Belle. She’s determined, clever, loves books, and strives for better things in life. It’s a perfect casting, as were the rest of the choices for characters.
This movie did not disappoint. It was everything that baby me (and grown ass woman me) wanted it to be. Let’s go over a few of my favorite things.
SPOILERS AHEAD, PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK (as if you don’t know the story by now).
The backstory that was written in to fill plot holes or just answer general questions was well thought out.
Honestly, one of my favorite scenes in the whole movie was the opening scene with the pre-Beast’s party full of “beautiful people.” Not only was it beautiful aesthetically, it was cleverly designed to not let the audience see the castle-dwellers as their true human forms. They were dressed in over-the-top (as per the time period) outfits, wigs, and makeup and OKAY I have never been more attracted to Dan Stevens than I was in that scene. The part where he gets off of his throne to dance? His movements, his face, his every damn thing is just too much for me to handle. It’s weird that he looks so good in that makeup, but I can accept that because oh my goodness.
The backstory about Belle’s mother was heartbreaking and touching. I’ve seen the movie twice now and have cried both times during the scene in her old apartment in Paris. Being able to explore the depth behind the reason for her father’s decision to move into this small provincial town was something that I needed. In the same vein, I was pleased with the information given about why the Beast became such a beast of a human. The fact that his loving mother died, his horrible father raised him, and that the castle staff let the child’s poor behavior slide is something that I think is realistic. Mrs. Potts says something about how we can’t blame people for who their fathers are and that really struck a chord with me. No, we don’t get to choose who our parents are, we don’t get a say in how we are raised by them, but we do get to decide what sort of person we will be as an adult. The Beast learned that the hard way.
Emma Watson’s interpretation of Belle was perfection.
I know there are some of you reading this right now that are rolling your eyes or mentally arguing with me and that’s okay. I know you’re mad she’s not a professional singer and you think she played her too bitchy, etc. but let me tell you why I disagree.
(Sidebar: I’m listening to the soundtrack as I write this and literally had to skip “Evermore” because I started tearing up. FOCUS, KAITLIN).
Emma added subtleties to Belle that were missed in the cartoon version. She tapped into a part of Belle that I had imagined was there all along. When Belle turns down dinner with Gaston in the village, her simple “no” combined with that pained facial expression is something I have actually done on many occasions. But that was so rude of her, he wasn’t even being mean, you argue. Was she being rude for denying a date with someone she knows she’s not interested in? It’s assumed they’ve lived in this town long enough that they know each other well. She doesn’t roll her eyes at him, laugh at him, make a snarky comment. She simply says no and realizes it was awkward as she left. Belle knows what she wants and she will not settle for something that isn’t what feels right to her.
Whoever decided that Emma would be tucking her dress and petticoat into her bloomers is a genius in my eyes. I know you all noticed this and I’m sure many of you thought it was weird, but I loved it. Have you ever worn a dress and petticoat before? I have, and let me tell you, it’s not easy to move around in. The simple choice to have her dress tucked up is another way to show that she’s different, of course. She has things to do, she’s ready to move, she’s not concerned with being “pretty” or “proper.”
Another thing I loved about Emma’s Belle was her teaching the other girls to read. This was missed in the original, which led many people to the “she’s a snob” conclusion. It’s very clear in this version that she does not think she’s better than everyone else because she can read, instead she tries to teach the little ones and is berated for it.
LeFou and Gaston’s relationship was brilliant.
Okay, so all those mommy-bloggers who lost their minds because LeFou is gay can go suck it. Honestly, if they hadn’t known that was the case, they wouldn’t have even noticed.
Anyways, LeFou is obviously infatuated with Gaston. I think he vacillates between wanting to be Gaston and actually wanting Gaston which seemed to be the case in the original movie as well. The scene in the pub where LeFou is paying the pub-goers to sing praises to Gaston was a fantastic interpretation of their relationship. This sort of treatment begins to fade as LeFou realizes that Gaston may not be as heroic as he originally imagined. It’s as if LeFou has held Gaston up on this pedestal all these years and is finally realizing that the man he is in love with has a dark side that is not going to be changed. LeFou falters in his loyalty, which is then completely destroyed when Mrs. Potts (always full of wisdom) tells him that he is too good for Gaston. Haven’t we all been in relationships like this before? (No? Just me? Okay, cool.) Josh Gad’s humor and ability to fangirl is impressive and he consistently steals the show when he’s on screen. Luke Evans’ Gaston is dramatic, realistic and horribly dark. The scariest villain is the one that you can find in the world around you and I think that Gaston circa 2017 is one of those villains.
The additional music was moving, clever, and fun.
Alan Menken is a musical genius (duh) and it amazes me that he took something that he originally made thirty years ago and somehow made it into something better. The additional songs add just what the audience needed: more story, more emotional connections to the characters, and more beauty to the overall plot.
I mentioned it briefly in my sidebar above, but out of the additional songs I loved “Evermore” the most. Not only is Dan Stevens a good singer (honestly, I was kind of surprised), the lyrics are painful and moving. This song is better by far than the Beauty and the Beast musical interpretation of this moment heard in “If I Can’t Love Her.” Not only does it’s melody better capture the emotions this moment deserves, the lyrics are emotionally deeper and more positive. Unlike the loss and desperation that is seen in “If I Can’t Love Her,” “Evermore” captures the Beast’s pain and turns it into something heartbreaking, yet hopeful. The Beast’s love in this song is more complete and true than seen in the original movie or the musical. It gives him a depth that was missing in the previous versions of this tale.
Belle and Beast’s relationship was much more meaningful than the original.
In the original movie, Belle falls in love with the Beast after helping him heal from a wound and teaching him to read. Sure, they have some fun in there throwing snowballs and slurping soup from their bowls, but their relationship never quite made sense to me. Were they really such a good match? Did they have anything in common? Was it a purely opportunistic relationship?
Those questions dissipated after watching the remake. The biggest example of this deeper relationship is their shared love of books. I cannot tell you how happy I was to see that the Beast himself loved to read as much as Belle did (because honestly, why would a prince NOT BE ABLE TO READ?). Sure, he judges her favorite book (but so did I because I hate Romeo and Juliet), but he offers her endless worlds once he realizes she was never given the opportunity to read anything her heart desired. The scene in the original movie when Beast gives her the library was my favorite as a child, and while I still think it’s sweet, it doesn’t hold as much meaning to me now. Yes he gave her an entire library, something she always wanted, but he didn’t even use it. It wasn’t important to him. In the remake, he offered her a library that was just as important to him as it was to her. The phrase “it’s yours” take on more meaning this time around. This gift is more of a sacrifice, as it is something he loves dearly. Reading becomes something they can do together, something they can discuss in depth, deepening their relationship through intellectual conversations and dreams of far-off places. This is all I could hope for in a relationship, so it’s no wonder I loved it for Belle.
Overall, this movie was a beautiful interpretation and expansion of the original Disney story. I was absolutely thrilled with how it turned out and cannot wait to buy it on DVD so I can watch it over and over and over again (this time driving my roommates crazy instead of my mother, sorry guys).
(P.S. Before I go, I just want to say that Belle asking Beast to grow out a beard at the end was exactly what I wanted. No shame in my game. *growl*)