So, you can imagine my excitement when this film was announced. A live-action adaptation of one of my favourite stories of all time. Featuring a lot of actors I really like (I’ve had a crush on Dan Stevens for almost a decade, since Sense and Sensibility), and the songs stayed in tact!
Given my level of anticipation, it’s almost inevitable that the film didn’t quite match my (admittedly ridiculous) expectations. Not that I’m saying the film is bad – it’s not! I really did enjoy it. But it wasn’t the perfect masterpiece I wanted it to be.
First, the good. The performances were almost universally excellent. Luke Evans was incredibly charismatic as Gaston. For me, he was the standout performer. Dan Stevens still managed to be sexy and expressive even under a bunch of CGI. Kevin Kline was solid. All the actors that played the servants/household objects did a fine job. Some of the best moments in the film came towards the end, and it was mostly for the acting. When Beast lets Belle go, you really feel the weight of the sacrifice. They are so close to being free of the curse, but he loves her so he has to let her leave. His pain, and his servant’s disappointment and understanding are really pretty affecting. As are the moments as the servants are saying goodbye to each other, thinking they are about to become useless household items forever.
I did like their attempt to bring in some diversity, both with two Black actresses, and by making Le Fou blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gay.
The film also looked beautiful, like a fairytale come to life. Some of it bordered on cartoon-y, particularly the backgrounds, but it fit the style and tone of the film. The costumes, too, were great (the Belle’s iconic yellow gown was not quite as iconic as I might have liked.)
I also liked all the added backstory. Almost every complaint that someone has made about the Beauty and the Beast cartoon over the years was addressed – the age of Beast (in the cartoon they make it seem like he was only 11 years old when he was cursed), why none of the townspeople remembered having a prince, whether the prince actually deserved the punishment meted out to him, etc. It made for a much richer, detailed, and consistent world.
I also liked the new song additions! I have been listening to Evermore on repeat for a few days now.
Now, for the bad.
I have to get this out of the way: I don’t think Emma Watson is a particularly great actress. She certainly looked lovely enough, and she sang pretty well, too. For most the film I didn’t mind her performance, but I don’t think she particularly stood out. When next to such incredible, charismatic performers like she was (particularly Luke Evans and Dan Stevens, but frankly she was also out-acted by Ewan McGregor as a CGI candlestick) she was just kind of…bland. And sometimes a bit mannered. The scene where she’s given the library – literally my dream – it felt so much like she was acting. It wasn’t quite natural, like she was thinking too hard or something. It’s a shame, and it certainly wasn’t bad enough to ruin the film for me. But I wanted something more from her in this.
The second major issue I had was that the beginning was simply too long. Once Belle got to the castle, things kicked off. But I wished they’d trimmed some of the earlier scenes of her in the village, because I just honestly didn’t really care. I was here for the romance!
And, man, seeing that romance brought to life on the big screen was totally a dream come true. Despite my minor complaints, this is definitely a film I’ll buy on DVD and watch over and over again. In fact, I want to see it again now, but I think I’ll just settle for listening to Evermore for the hundredth time.
Have you seen it? What did you think?