Growing up, Belle was one of my favorite Disney princesses, she was smart, sassy, and a brunette (as a child, this was important to me). As an adult watching the live action version starring Emma Watson, Belle is so much more that just a “Disney Princess”. She is possibly the first introduction to Feminism that young girls will have these days. Especially with Watson in the role.
Many are more familiar with his Downton Abbey characters, but my only experience with Dan Stevens (the Beast) is through his portrayal of Legion on FX. His performance on Legion is incredible, as is his performance in this movie. In fact, his surprisingly lovely singing of a new original song was filled with such passion and depth. I felt every emotion he subtly portrayed even through the beastly face he wore.
There are many beloved characters in Beauty and the Beast, and the live action movie enlisted an all star cast to voice our favorite household objects: Ewan McGregor as Lumière, the candelabra; Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, the feather duster; Hattie Morahan as the enchantress; and Nathan Mack as Chip, the teacup; Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts. Really, all roles in this movie were spectacularly cast. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect Belle, Beast, and Maurice (played by the always impeccable Kevin Kline).
A minor issue that I have with the storytelling is that Belle lives with the beast, gets to know him, speaks with him about books and life, but at no point asks him for his name. She calls him “the beast” yet is still able to fall in love with him… YOU DON’T KNOW HIS NAME!! (Sorry, this is just something that really bothered me). And in the final battle between Gaston and Beast, she’s left helpless shouting from the sidelines – that’s not our Belle. She’s not a “damsel in distress”, she’s a warrior.
Now onto the gay issue: Josh Gad’s portrayal of LeFou was nothing if not gay-stereotypes throughout the entire film (keep an eye out for his “never gonna happen”). But the “moment” at the end, the “confirmation” felt like a Disney joke that I’m sure could’ve happened in a number of movies that did not include explicitly gay characters. I’m overjoyed to have a gay character in this movie, I’m just underwhelmed but the “statement” we were promised.
In such a political time, it’s hard to ignore the messages in this movie intended for children: beauty is on the inside, do not judge by appearances, educated women is something to strive for, stand up for what you believe in, defend those who cannot defend themselves, it’s okay to be gay, and since it’s how this whole thing started: be kind to those in need (you never know who may be an enchantress).
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast opens in theaters on March 17th, watch the trailer below.