Review: Beauty And The Beast

Director: Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods & Monsters, Dream Girls)
Remake of 1991 Beauty and the Beast
Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky (screenplay), Evan Spiliotopoulos (screenplay) Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont (Tale By)
Producer: David Hoberman
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 129 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found at TheMatinee.ca

 


Something unexpected happens when familiar tales are re-imagined for new audiences. Since much of the story is well-known, it allows those gathered to focus less on the story, and more on the voice doing the telling. Plot and prose take a back seat to cadence and inflection, which can bring new life and luminosity to a well-known story…

…or it can screw up the story entirely.

It’s a tale as old as time.

Once there was a young prince (Dan Stevens) who lived a lush life in a grand castle. One night, as he’s holding a lavish ball when disheveled beggar woman comes calling, he mocks her before turning her away. Seeing the vain and uncaring nature of the prince’s heart, the beggar – actually an enchantress – casts a spell on him, his home, and everyone in it.

He is turned into a hideous beast, and his court all household items. So they will stay until their master can learn to love.

Years later, in the town at the foot of the hill, a young girl named Belle (Emma Watson) is the misfit of her town. While other girls her age pine for marriage, she seeks independence. While others slave over the washing, she invents ways of doing chores faster. While others in town drink and gossip, she only has eyes for the pages of her books…and her loving father (Kevin Klein).

When her father takes his wares to sell, his wagon gets lost on the road. After surviving a wolf attack, he seeks refuge in an isolated castle that seems largely abandoned…but for the roaring fire in the hearth. Inside, he meets what has become of the court; Lumiere, now a candelabra (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth, now a clock (Ian McKellan), Mrs. Potts, now a teapot (Emma Thompson)…and the furry and frightening lord of the manor. The Beast doesn’t take kindly to strangers – especially ones who help themselves to roses growing in his garden, so Belle’s father becomes his prisoner.

After fighting off advances from the beefy and smarmy Gaston (Luke Evans), Belle is alerted to her father’s disappearance. When she makes her way to the castle to search for him, she bargains with The Beast to take his place instead.

The Beast agrees, sends father on his way, and holds Belle in his place. The court sees this unfold and wonders aloud if she might be the one to teach their master to love and break the curse?

But who could ever love a beast?

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Film on TV: July 12-18

belle-et-bete.jpg
Beauty and the Beast, playing on Sunday on TCM

I do apologize for being late with this once again; I had it mostly ready to go last night but then completely forgot to finish it. I blame the Mad Men blu-rays and feeling a bit under-the-weather toward the end of the night. In any case, there’s a ton of good stuff yet to come this week, so hold on tight. Biggest recommendations I have of the newly featured stuff: Ernst Lubitsch’s fantastic Nazi comedy To Be or Not to Be on Tuesday night, Joseph H. Lewis’s low-budget noir opus Gun Crazy on Wednesday night, underseen French character study Look at Me early Friday morning, Jean Cocteau’s breathtakingly gorgeous Beauty and the Beast Sunday night, and Ingmar Bergman’s meditative classic The Seventh Seal in the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning. That should do you even aside from all the other great stuff playing this week.

Tuesday, July 13

6:30am – Sundance – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Luis Bu˜uel made a career out of making surrealist anti-bourgeois films, and this is one of the most surreal, most anti-bourgeois, and best films he ever made, about a dinner party that just can’t quite get started due to completely absurd interruptions.
1972 France. Director: Luis Buñuel. Starring: Fernando Rey, Paul Fankeur, Delphine Seyrig, Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel.
(repeats at 1:15pm)

6:30pm – Sundance – Wendy & Lucy
This is a favorite among Row Three writers, and I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t managed to catch up with it, despite it being ever-available to me on Netflix Instant Watch. Hopefully someone will jump into the comments and extoll it for us.
2008 USA. Director: Kelly Reichardt. Starring: Michelle Williams, Will Oldham, Michell Worthey, John Robinson.
(repeats at 5:15am on the 14th)

8:00pm – TCM – To Be or Not to Be
If you never listen to anything else I ever say, listen to this: To Be or Not To Be is one of the greatest films of all time, and you should see it. It’s a comedy about Nazi Germany. I know. Jack Benny plays the leader of a Polish theatre troupe, specializing in playing Hamlet alongside his philandering wife, played by Carole Lombard. I know. When Hitler takes over Poland, the troupe engages in an act of espionage both dangerous and ridiculous. I know! It’s simultaneously hilarious, ominous, and heartbreaking. Director Ernst Lubitsch’s finest hour? For me it is. Carole Lombard’s best role (the final one of her career, before she was killed in a plane crash returning from a war bond tour)? For me it is.
1943 USA. Director: Ernst Lubitsch. Starring: Jack Benny, Carole Lombard, Robert Stack, Felix Bressart, Lionel Atwill, Sig Ruman.
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