The last time I was at the movie house, it was to watch La La Land with Alex. I was so enamored that I thought nothing could top the experience. But we just saw Beauty and the Beast and the feeling was beyond falling in love. The feeling was one of triumph. It didn’t just feel magical; for two hours, I was part of the magic. I smiled, I laughed, I gasped and there were moments when I felt that my heart would burst from my chest. From the opening scene to the end credits, I was in awe. Not since The Matrix has a film commanded my full attention.
Truth be told, Beauty and the Beast is my second least favorite Disney Princess movie (Pocahontas being the one I like the least). Well, since The Little Mermaid anyway. I’ve always been a Mulan girl. But, having raised two daughters on Disney musicals and the Harry Potter books and films, I was more than a little excited when the news broke out that Emma Watson had been cast as Belle in the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast. I’ve seen Dan Stevens on film after he opted to have his Matthew Crawley character in Downton Abbey killed off. If you’ve seen The Guest, you’d know what a good actor he is. As for Luke Evans… if anyone could play the perfect anti-hero, that would be him.
No, it’s not the perfect live-action adaptation of the 1991 animated film. There were scenes where the backgrounds looked painted. No, it’s not exactly the same as the cartoon original. It’s better. The songs, the characterization, the songs, the backstory, the songs… Yes, mostly the songs. And no one sang their numbers better than Gaston (Evans) and the Beast (Stevens). Sorry, Emma Watson. You’re beautiful, you’re a fine young actress and you’re even a competent singer. But your singing voice does not have the range and depth of emotion that Luke Evans and Dan Stevens showed. Both were—simply—beyond reproach.
What were the best parts of the film?
Let me start with “Be My Guest”. When the live-action adaptation was first announced, Speedy wondered to Alex how that segment could possibly be interpreted. It just seemed impossible. Well, leave it to Disney to re-invent the magic of that scene. The song, like most other songs in the film, had been re-arranged. The effect was simply jaw-dropping awesome.
Then, there’s the ballroom dance scene. It’s the scene that re-defined animation way back in 1991 with its never-before-seen 3D effect and depth of field. I did not expect a repeat of the 1991 scene. How could anything top that? In the live-action version, the dance started out with rather drab looking chandeliers. I was starting to feel underwhelmed when, as the Beast lifted Belle off the dance floor, the ballroom burst into multi-colored lights. I gasped. Quite audibly, I’m afraid, and my butt partially lifted off my seat. I couldn’t help it.
Third, the song “Evermore” which the Beast sang after he set Belle free so she could attend to her father. Alex and I felt the same way about the song. It was reminiscent of Quasimodo’s “Out There”. The same haunting tone, the hopefulness amid tragedy, the strength of character that can only be evinced by someone who has lived through the worst. Dan Steven’s rendition of “Evermore” gave me goosebumps. It made my eyes sting. It made me feel.
And, finally, the best scene of all. “The Mob Song” in the 1991 animated film was unnerving enough but when you see Luke Evans holding a torch, looking deadly and mouthing “Kill the beast!” it is nothing short of bloodcurdling. Spine-chilling. It’s like the devil has mesmerized you and you can’t help but follow his lead. In my head, I was repeating his words, “Kill the beast!” and I was on the warpath with him. Luke Evans hit the nail right on the head. It was a bullseye. What a performance! What a spectacle!
Yes, I’ve read the criticisms—that LeFou was gay and had the hots for Gaston, that the Beast had dead eyes, that the whole story reeked of Stockholm syndrome… Oh, yes, I’ve read them all. But who cares? If there was a chance to see Beauty and the Beast again, I would. I love it.