I’m not going to talk about any of the headline controversies. Not Stockholm Syndrome. Not feminism. Not Disney’s first openly gay character. I haven’t bothered to read what all the fuss is about, since I still don’t understand why we have this movie other than something that’s green and rhymes with “terribly unfunny.” I haven’t watched any of the clips. In preparation for today’s Movie Monday I watched all the trailers and looked at the tracks listed on the soundtrack. The film experts and sociologists have already talked about what they know. I’m going to write about what I know.
Beauty and the Beast has long been a favorite story of mine. It’s even French (at least the best-known version in the West), the classic la Belle et la Bête. I love French, and I always appreciate the idea of two very different people learning to see each other differently and discover something more, and any time a film plays on this idea I get a deeper understanding of it.
The 1991 animated classic is so special to everyone that the internet is, frankly, irrationally involved in every little revelation we get about the 2017 Beauty and the Beast live-action event. But ugh, why bother? WHY BOTHER? If the production team strays very far from the animated classic it’ll be a bad film, but if they don’t bother to lift a creative finger I’ll tear my hair out.
What They Will Do:
They’re going to distinguish themselves from the Broadway play.
Giant wet tears dribble down my cheeks as I write this, because according to the track list, not a single Broadway song will appear in the movie. It makes sense. They aren’t making a film adaptation of a musical; they are adapting an animated movie into a live-action movie. It’s two layers of adaptation instead of three: fairy tale to animated movie to live-action film, rather than fairy tale to animated movie to musical to live-action musical.
To complete this transformation, I predict Disney will employ their cinematic power to firmly ground the world outside the Beast’s castle in French reality. One of Belle’s new songs on the soundtrack list has “Montmartre” in parentheses. I don’t know what that signifies, but for anyone who doesn’t know, Montmartre is a large hill just barely inside Paris, famous for the Sacre Cœur basilica, street painters, and an amazing view of the city. I think Paris might play a role in the Beast’s backstory, making him a minor prince in the court of whoever was king during the time period they choose. Many castles were built just outside of Paris so nobility could have their own place but still make it to Court when needed. Perhaps the Beast was one of them?
What They Won’t Do:
They won’t present Emma Watson as anything less than an angel. I have zero doubt about this. I have never seen her play anyone with faults. She’s British Beyoncé: she’s a queen and nothing critical can be said of her.
That being said, I love Belle, but she’s not all that deep a character either. She’s the beautiful bookworm dreamer, but other than having a slightly prejudiced dislike of her small town, animated Belle doesn’t have faults either. The could maybe play on that, show live-action Belle not giving the townspeople the credit they’re due because she wants adventure in the great wide somewhere, then let her realize how much she didn’t appreciate it while she’s trapped in the Beast’s castle (hrm, like the Broadway song did…?). But I doubt they’ll change much concerning their title character. “If it ain’t baroque, don’t fix it.”
What They Should Do:
They should seize this chance to pay tribute to the original live action La Belle et la Bête!
Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast was itself greatly influenced by the first Beauty and the Beast film ever made—the one prolific French director Jean Cocteau changed cinematic history with in 1946. If you’d like to see some spectacular special effects, fantastic utilization of light and shadow, and frilly renaissance neck ruffs, look no further than Jean Cocteau’s classic and definitive film.
A visual homage here or there in the 2017 film wouldn’t be amiss, subtle enough for the casual viewer to enjoy what they think is lovely eye candy, but clear enough for the Cocteau-initiated to crinkle their noses with delight. Not to mention the opportunity the crew has to play with practical effects.
What They Should UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DO:
Please don’t leave Maurice as he was. Go back to La Belle et la Bête’s roots. Make him a merchant on a trading expedition, not a Disneyfied pudgy buffoon. Don’t lose sight of this key relationship to the story. I beg you.
If we don’t like Maurice, we don’t want Belle to trade her life for his. We wouldn’t understand why she would do it. By all appearances (see what I did there?) it’s an unfair agreement: old, feeble Maurice who’s on his way out for his young daughter who has yet to see the world? It feels like a contrived way to get Belle into the Beast’s castle. So don’t waste your opportunity to give Maurice an actual role that people will love. Show us that father-daughter relationship and tell us what Maurice gives Belle that she wouldn’t want locked away.
Do not make him an idiot.
Your best friend and amateur blogger,
Wish List Item:
YOU’VE BEEN DREAMING JUST ONE DREAM
NEARLY ALL YOUR LIIIIIIIIIIIFE
HOPING SCHEMING JUST ONE THEME
WILL YOU BE A WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE!?
Chances of this happening:
Zero strapping boys like me. As I said, the soundtrack is out and “Me” is nowhere to be found. Quel misère! But this is a wish list. So, I wish!
Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens waltzes into theaters on Friday, March 17. It is directed by Bill Condon with music by Alan Menken.
Media: Giphy, Disney, DisCina