Last night, I saw the new, live-action Beauty and the Beast, a faithful adaptation of the 1991 animated masterpiece. If you’re someone who cringes when the characters on screen break into song and dance, then I doubt you’d like it. Also, I pity your joyless existence. I sat entranced for the full two hours and nine minutes. There were a couple of elements that irked me, but they were few and far between enough as to not dispel the enchantment. I left the theater with a spring in my step, a song in my heart and a rumbly in my tumbly for French fine dining.
The film opens with a Hunger Games-meets-Great Gatsby socialite romp that really shows what a douchebag this prince was. You could only hang out with him if you wore clown makeup and powdered wigs and were hip to the latest waltz. I find myself rejoicing when he is stripped of his pomp and frills and transformed into a hideous beast — though I weep for the in-house service staff, who don’t deserve to go down with the ship. Trickle-down economics at its worst.
With the opening sequence out of the way, it is time to meet Belle. She steps deftly through her provincial town, nose buried in some escape fiction, singing all the while. One of the central questions for me coming into this movie is: Can Emma Watson sing? It wouldn’t seem fair if she were able to; she already looks like an ambassador sent to Earth from a beautiful elven land to teach us all how to get along with each other. The answer I come up with is: I don’t know. Her voice is clear and pretty, but there are some obvious instances of digital enhancement — what the kids call “autotune” — that confuse me. The impression I get is that Belle’s songs were pieced together from multiple takes with considerable pitch correction and artificial layering. But maybe I’m projecting.
I set aside my singing doubts and fall deeply in love as she spins in a field, camera panning dizzyingly around her perfect features. The prince-turned-beast I met earlier definitely isn’t good enough for her. But since I know how this ends, I try to keep an open mind about him.
I won’t keep an open mind about Gaston. He’s a dick.
Belle’s father leaves the village to play with his toys and encounters a pack of hungry wolves in the forest. I’m glad I’m brave enough to watch because the filmmakers have very faithfully depicted the SWAT-level wolf pack hunting tactics I first saw in the Planet Earth series.
Papa escapes on horseback and trespasses at the Beast’s castle, where he steals a rose for Belle. The Beast doesn’t mind sharing food, but flora and fauna are sacrosanct, so he locks Papa in a cell. Papa provides a scathing social commentary on the privatized prison industry when he asks incredulously, “A lifetime of imprisonment just for stealing a rose?”
Belle rides to find Papa and we finally get a good look at the Beast. Terrifying? Sure (great roar). Hideous? I say no. Maybe even handsome, but it depends on what you’re into. I try to dissect his genetic makeup (‘werewolf meets ram/bear?’ is what I write in my notes), but get frustrated and look it up. According to the Disney wiki, the technical term is “chimera,” or a mixture of animals. He has the:
-head structure and horns of a buffalo
-arms and body of a bear
-eyebrows of a gorilla
-jaws, teeth and mane of a lion
-tusks of a wild boar
-legs and tail of a wolf
-and the heart of a scared little boy desperate to be loved. The more you know.
In a total ripoff of the end of Armageddon, Belle pulls a Bruce Willis and shoves her Ben Affleck dad out of the prison cell, taking his place as the Beast’s prisoner. The theme of self-sacrificial love runs consistently throughout the movie, which is great. But not as good as dancing plates. From the contentious broship between Lumiere and Cogsworth to the puns (watch out for “I’ve been burned by you before”) to Chip zooming around on his plate, everything is so wonderfully brought to life. I am once again a delighted child, and renew my vows to tenderly care for my own kitchenware. “Be Our Guest” is an absolute triumph.
…but it’s not good enough for Belle, who flees the castle on horseback (how is this horse always just hanging around?). The wolves attack but she holds them off long enough for the Beast to come and chuck them against trees (but not before they chomp his neck). As Belle tends to the Beast back in his castle, it becomes apparent that his privileged upbringing will, in fact, pay off in the long run. The two bond over a shared knowledge of Shakespeare, and begin to tingle for each other.
I heard about all the gay sex in this movie — so how was it?
Good question. To find out, we cut to the village pub where Gaston (Luke Evans) is feeling stung by Belle’s rejection. LeFou (played by the brilliant Josh Gad) is determined to cheer him up, and engages the lads in a lusty ode to Gaston’s overall sex appeal. There is a moment of sensual foreplay but no thrusting, so I don’t know what people are so worked up about. As Ewan McGregor said, “[LeFou] is a gay character. It’s 2017 for fuck’s sake.”
Gaston has seized control of the village, Papa is locked in a carriage and the enchanted rose is down to its last few petals. I don’t want to ruin everything so I will leave you with these five questions, which I hope burn fiercely enough to compel you to go see this movie:
1. Will Gaston see his vanity for the displaced homoeroticism that it is and take LeFou into his bed?
2. This horse really seems to save the main characters’ lives a bunch of times — does he get his requisite appreciation?
3. Will Belle descending the staircase in her yellow dress take your breath away?
4. Will you sob uncontrollably when the last petal falls and Cogsworth becomes just an ordinary clock? Lumiere a candlestick? No? How about when Chip becomes just a damaged teacup?
5. And finally, IF the Beast ever transforms back into his human form, will he now look like a total bitch?
Photo via Disney; GIFs via Giphy.