Movie Night

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – “The first and last five minutes were great!”

Here are the really nice things about the live action ‘Beauty and the Beast’:

The opening title. It was a direct shout-out to the cartoon, right? The ending credits were also quite heartwarming, and I loved seeing the actors behind the voices.

The prologue explaining how the prince was cursed by the enchantress. Of all the plot holes in the cartoon, that was the one that bothered me the most (that and the one where Belle didn’t even get to eat during ‘Be Our Guest’. C’mon Lumiere, the girl is hungry and she only gets a teeny tiny taste of the gray stuff?) The cartoon prince was cursed at eleven for being a spoiled brat. Eleven! What the hell, witch? But in this version, it’s a frou frou adult prince who gets turned into the Beast, which is much more satisfying.

Luke Evans as Gaston and his “Just watch, I’m going to make Belle my wiiiiife” line. That seriously made me giggle like a schoolgirl in the theater. Until that moment I had thought Luke Evans was too old to be Gaston, but that one line made everything click. Actually all of Luke Evans’ musical numbers were great because his voice was perfect for Gaston (even in that inexplicably slowed down and revised ‘Gaston’ number, but more on that later).

The Beast’s transformation into Dan Stevens. If there’s a way to grow heart eyes in real life, I would’ve, because he was just SO pretty. It turns out the only real life actor who could match cartoon Beast’s transformation to the prince and elicit the same response to seeing that beautiful, gorgeous face, is Stevens. Several women I was watching with actually screamed at that scene. Sigh. I seriously would watch the movie again just for that part.

In fact, Stevens did much more than be a pretty face. He made Beast incredibly funny, sympathetic, and likable. That’s some pretty good voice acting to convey a sense of humor through all that fur, and the scene where he was discussing Romeo and Juliet with Belle was gold.

Okay, so have we gotten the good stuff out of the way? Because what’s coming next ain’t going to be pretty.

I honestly think I am the only one on the planet who hated this movie. Hated. I hate that I wasted precious time out of my day to go see it. I was looking at my watch thinking ‘Please God let it end soon’, and we weren’t even one hour into it. I know I live in Unpopular Opinion town, but here are my reasons.

The movie felt uneven. Is it a fun fairy tale, or is it a dark, serious film? The filmmakers gave it a massive backstory for everything to make sense, so am I supposed to take it seriously? (Look Ma! no plot holes!) But how can I when there’s a goddamn singing candelabra? Why was the cinematography literally so dark? The scene where Belle discovers what really happened to her mother gave me strong ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ vibes – not the Disney cartoon either, but the book! I love Kevin Kline, but he played Maurice so earnestly that watching his scenes felt like watching a different movie. Look, a cartoon is a cartoon, it doesn’t have to make sense. No one watches an animated film for realism. It’s all about magic and wonder, which this movie totally lost.

Josh Gad. We get it, LeFou is gay. We got it the first time. But somehow Gad felt that he had to remind us in every single scene he was in, with his acting screaming out LEFOU IS GAY in capital letters. He could have been more subtle and the audience would have got the connection – heck, the homoerotic subtext was obvious even in the cartoon! And the man is in a movie with Sir Ian McKellen, for crying out loud. His acting was just offensive.

Aaand, speaking of offensive. The autotune for Emma Watson was nothing short of egregious. Seriously, I’m getting mad just thinking about it. Nobody was expecting Watson to turn in a Grammy-winning performance. I for one fully expected to hear a passable singing voice, which would have been okay because at least it would have been real. But no, the filmmakers thought they could fool us into thinking she suddenly developed a pristine voice. I wish I had the words to describe how much the opening song was completely ruined for me. That was supposed to set the tone for the whole movie, but I never recovered from it, which is why I’m writing down my unpopular opinion here.

Belle is supposed to be a lonely outsider, not a self-righteous snob who looks down contemptuously on the villagers because she thinks she’s better than them. Yet that’s the vibe I got from Watson’s acting. Well, I say “acting” because she only used one expression – her perpetual scowl – to convey all the emotions: wonder, disgust (at Gaston), loneliness, fear, concern. For crying out loud, she could only manage a half smile/half smirk combo during ‘Be Our Guest’! If the heroine herself could not even feel wonder and awe at the culinary spectacle before her, how was I expected to? Perhaps Watson was too intent on being a feminist and she thought that she had to maintain the furrowed brow throughout the movie because Belle is a serious person, people.

Watson made me appreciate the craft of acting. She made me recognize that there is a skill that great actors possess to be able to inhabit a character, tell a story, and bring the audience with them on a journey. Because she does not have it.

If you think I came into the movie prepared to hate it, think again. This was supposed to be a treat for myself after enduring a horrible week at work, so I was ready to be entertained and to enjoy myself. It just didn’t happen. A bad movie stays with me more than a bad play ever does (and I’ve been to some clunkers recently), and hating ‘Beauty and the Beast’ makes me feel even worse because I adore the cartoon.

It just felt like the movie could never decide what it wanted to be. The filmmakers wanted to make it “fresh”, which is apparently the reason for putting back Howard Ashman’s original lyrics into the ‘Gaston’ number. Well, how was it supposed to be “fresh” if they mirrored practically every shot from the cartoon?

Oh well. At least I still have the animated version to comfort me and lift me up from this abyss of dissatisfaction that Watson pushed me into.

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