Beauty and the Beast: My Movie Review
For almost a year now, I’ve been anticipating the release of the new Disney live-action Beauty and the Beast. Today I saw it with some friends who have been excited to see it.
It was beautiful. I especially enjoyed the iridescent colors of the Be Our Guest scene. It was gorgeous and added to the beautiful animated 1991 version of the fairytale.
I was pleasantly surprised with Emma Watson’s role as Belle. She has a young and innocent look, yet her character is strong and wise beyond her years.
Watson said before signing on to the role of Belle that she was reluctant to play the role unless the character had more feminist qualities. At first I was disappointed that she had to say this, but after seeing the film I understand more about Belle’s role in this new version and the 1991 animated film.
Belle has always been my favorite Disney “princess,” even though she isn’t really a princess at all. The only way she achieves this status is by marrying Adam, the prince. In the new version, the enchanted armoire tries to dress her in a fabulous gown that is fit for a princess, but Belle hesitates and says “But I’m not a princess.” She knows that that is not what she really wants or who she really is.
In the 1991 version, I always loved that Belle was a book lover. She always has her nose “stuck in a book,” and the singing French villagers snub her because she is different from the rest of them. The modern Belle is no different. But it is not Belle’s longing for adventure that takes her on this journey that eventually leads to her falling in love with the beast. Belle’s strong, unflinching love for her elderly father is what causes her to fight for his life when he finds himself locked in the beast’s castle after stealing a rose from the royal gardens.
Traditionally, the princess or female role of a fairytale would be the damsel in distress, waiting to be saved by a handsome prince. Snow White waits for true love’s kiss to wake her from an eternal slumber. Sleeping Beauty is locked in a tower guarded by a terrible dragon under a spell cast by a deranged enchantress (not to mention her pig-like minions). Cinderella is forced to wait for her prince to figure out that the glass slipper belongs to no one but her. All the princes find their princesses in time to save them from whatever doom threatens their happiness.
But Belle offers up her own life and happiness to save that of her father. Why?
Because she loves him.
Love takes over Belle’s initial fear of the beast. Even in the 1991 version, she commands him to “step into the light” so that she can see his face and confirm her fears. He does so, and even after seeing his hideous form, she agrees to trade places with her father. Her love knows no bounds when it comes to the man in her life, the one who has been her protection and provider since the day she was born. It really is a beautiful picture of the affection a young woman can have for the first man in her life, her father.
As the story progresses, we watch Belle and the beast form an unlikely friendship. He is just as headstrong as she is, but both characters have a gentleness in their nature which allows their relationship to blossom.
When Belle runs away after the beast finds her snooping around the forbidden west wing of the castle, the beast comes after her and finds himself fighting off rabid wolves to save the life of a young woman who might just be his last hope. Belle watches as he defends her, then in exhaustion, he falls to the ground. Only for a moment does she consider jumping onto Felipe’s back and running away from all the heartache and trouble she finds inside the enchanted castle. Instead, she knows she must do the right thing and help him.
This is another example of Belle’s goodness and her inner drive to keep her promises.
In the final scene, it is she who breaks the spell that has imprisoned the beast in his own personal hell. Through her kindness, friendship, and love, she has freed him and the entire castle from the enchantment that threatened to keep them locked up forever, where eventually they would fade into the mists of time and be forgotten.
In this fairytale, the feminine figure saves the male figures in her life because she loves them.
Maybe that is why Belle has always been, and always will be, my favorite Disney princess. My favorite book, Beauty: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley, has a beautiful twist on the story while also keeping to the original in a wonderful way.
When I was little, I strongly identified with her because she had brown hair, loved to sing, and read books. Not really your typical Disney princess! Now that I am older, I see more traits in her character that my heart resonates with. Belle does not shrink back from a challenge and she is determined to make the best of her situation, whether it is being locked inside a spooky castle or rejecting unwanted advances from the village pretty boy. But she is strong, beautiful, intelligent and caring. Not to mention very okay with being single if that is her lot in life. (Yay for singleness!)
In other words, Belle is everything a young lady should be. And more.
I always cry during the transformation scene, and watching the new version didn’t change that. My favorite part is when she touches her beloved’s face and says “It is you.”
The final scene is when Belle is rewarded for choosing not only the difficult things in life, but the right things. Her love and loyalty to her father and the romantic love for the beast become the gift Belle has always deserved. She always puts others above herself and is rewarded with everything she ever wanted: Adventure, family, friends, and ultimately, love.
I thoroughly enjoyed this dazzling new version of the film and appreciated the enhanced humanness of each character. I even appreciated how the director made Gaston more selfish and evil than any cartoon character would ever have been able to get across. He scared me, as he should scare everyone who sees the movie.
But Belle was the best part, and she will forever be my favorite Disney princess.