By Amber Bartlett (’18)
There aren’t many movie recastings whose quality is even remotely comparable to that of the original. Remaking childhood classics is especially risky business because viewers often form such strong attachments to the movies that enraptured them in their youth that they are unable or unwilling to explore the same stories through different lenses. All of the two hours and nineteen minutes of “Beauty and the Beast” further emphasize the precarious business of remaking a beloved classic. Unfortunately, the new version of this fairytale does not live up to its original standards. The animated movie left room for imagination, while this rendition does all the imagining for the audience.
After taking her father’s place in prison, Belle must spend her days in an enchanted castle at the mercy of a volatile beast whose curse can only be broken by true love. Belle’s peculiarity is just intriguing enough to make the Beast fall in love.
The intricate costume designs along with the extraordinary voice of Audra McDonald (Madame Garderobe) leaves a positive first impression. Emma Watson, however, was less impressive. Her acting was stiff and forced, as if you could see her reacting to directions from Bill Condon. For someone undertaking such a large singing role, her voice seemed thin, light, and untrained. When one is expecting the angelic quality that the original Belle had, it’s easy to be disappointed by Watson’s pop quality. Throughout the movie, it was unclear whether or not she was singing because the video was slightly off the audio recording which quickly became very distracting. It grew increasingly apparent that Emma Watson was cast in the role not because of her talent, but because of her fame.
In contrast to her prosaic musical performance, Watson captured the audience when she put Gaston in his place after he repeatedly asked for her hand in marriage. Her feminism and respect for women shone through and she was able to stand up to the character who is a symbol for misogyny and arrogance.
Set designer Sarah Greenwood and director Bill Condon imagined Beauty and the Beast as a luxurious paradise filled with real historical artifacts. They oversaw sets packed with accurate details, from the chandeliers in the ballrooms to the books in Belle’s library. The reference to “fair Verona” from Romeo and Juliet was especially enjoyable.
It was disappointing that the movie made little reference to a favorite song in the musical version of Beauty and the Beast, titled “Home.” They teased the audience by playing the song several times as background music but Watson never actually sang it. Perhaps that was a blessing in disguise since her voice is so very uninspiring.
If it is possible for you to disregard Emma Watson’s shrilling voice, certainly go and see Beauty and the Beast. It is an exciting two hours with an air of enchantment that will transport any audience member back to the days before Belle became Emma Watson and the Beast, Dan Stevens.