Like so many Millennials, I cherish the special place Disney holds in my heart and in my childhood memories. I admit Beauty and the Beast was not an obsession of mine in the same way The Lion King or Aladdin were, but the classic music and beautiful artistry of the Disney animated movie certainly brings me back to a happy place from my childhood. I am both fond and protective of the franchise. Therefore, I was cautiously excited to learn there would be a live-action re-imagining of the tale starring none other than Emma Watson, an actor I also admired as a child.
The 90’s kid in me couldn’t wait until this movie came out on DVD to watch it. I uncharacteristically splurged on an opening-weekend ticket, and what can I say? The movie surpassed my expectations.
Belle’s character in this reinventing of the tale is far less… problematic than in the original. Even as a child I always wondered why she for no reason at all hated her cute little French village, and why oh why would she fall in love with the beast without knowing he was really a man? In the 2017 remake, they do clear up a lot of the questions that seriously bothered me about the original, and take great efforts to make Belle less… well… useless. In this tale, she takes strides to improve life in the town, constructing her own sort of washing machine so she can teach a young girl to read while doing laundry. The villagers, not so progressive, are quick to put that to an end. Viewers do get a clear idea of Belle’s independent spirit that goes beyond a sulky teenager who dreams of “more than this provincial life.”
The musical numbers were wonderful and entertaining. I could tell Emma Watson’s voice was pretty well altered in sound editing, but I didn’t care. I’m no musician, and I’m actually impressed that I could even pick up on the auto-tuning in the first place because that’s how nearly tone deaf I am.
What surprised me the most is how the side characters really stole the show. I was left wanting more of Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth, Lumierre, etc. The love story of the movie for me was between the wardrobe and the piano. It was heart-warming and satisfying and funny- everything you want in a great romance.
Speaking of side characters stealing the show, don’t even get me started on Gaston! Luke Evans was fantastic. The perfect blend of conceited and ruthless, and man did I enjoy his singing. I’d love to see Evans in more movies (preferably with Josh Gad, but I’ll get to that).
All in all, I recommend it for anyone who enjoyed the cartoon. They changed just enough to answer some questions and to successfully adapt it to a live-action without diminishing the spirit of the movie. It was pure magic!
About Lefou and Gaston
Ugh. This controversy is ridiculous.
When the first footage of Lefou and Gaston’s song in the pub was released, my first response was, “Oh, that make sense for him to be gay.” It was an obvious creative choice, as Gaston’s sidekick/henchman Lefou sings this catchy ode to Gaston’s manliness. My primary concern based on the original Disney adaptation was that Lefou would be a caricature of a gay man, teaching children that gay men are buffoons to be laughed at in film instead of just, I don’t know, regular freaking people like the rest of us.
Instead, I was pleased to see Josh Gad’s more nuanced performance as Lefou. Seriously, he was a sweet character with leagues more depth than the cartoon Lefou (Have you seen the cartoon? This character was awful in it). His affection for Gaston is obvious, as it always has been, but Gad’s performance adds a level of conscience and wistfulness to the character that makes him relatable. You finally understand why Lefou goes along with Gaston’s morally ambiguous choices, as Lefou is clearly trying to earn some level of affection from his blatantly abusive friend. It’s heartbreaking. When he does finally have a refreshing “aha” moment, dancing with another man at court at the very end of the movie in a quick shot, I am happy for him. He’s left Gaston behind and moved on to better company.
Do we have a long way to go as far as positive LGBT role models in the media? Oh yes. While Lefou is less clownish in this adaptation than the original, he is still representing a stereotype that I believe we will move past in the near future, when hopefully the sexuality of a character will become a non-issue in entertainment. When that day comes, I hope to see even more depth and fewer examples of stereotypical behavior from LGBT characters in movies. Until then, I embrace Lefou, all the parts of him that do and do not conform to his label as a gay man in a Disney movie. Baby steps, right?
I understand many people had different concerns when the director announced officially that Lefou would have an “exclusively gay moment” in the film. If you are concerned about your children viewing a film that does imply on several occasions that one endearing male side character may be attracted to other men, then fine. Don’t watch it. This movie will still make a lot of money without your business, and your children will have a hell of a time adjusting to the real world when they escape your talon-like hold on their naivete.
Nope, I’m not a parent. I’d like to think if I were, I would use this movie as a talking point to discuss my faith with my children, to talk about sexuality and the Bible and (most importantly) to talk to my kids about accepting and showing love to all people. This is a great movie to show that, as it contains much commentary on how to treat others with kindness.
But that’s just one Christian’s perspective.