Beauty and The Beast: Disney’s Live-Action Remake of the Classic Fairytale

By Claudia Muratore (University of Virgina)

With its high ceilings and magnificent décor, the elegant and refined Odeon theater provided the ideal setting for a showing of Disney’s new live-action rendition of the classic fairytale, Beauty and the Beast. Community members of all ages and native languages flocked to the theater on Friday evening to view this highly anticipated film, and, judging by the reactions of those exiting the theater afterwards, were not disappointed by what they saw. In keeping with Disney’s recent trends of depicting increasingly independent princesses and placing greater emphasis on live-action remakes, Beauty and The Beast boasted a highly autonomous Belle in a remake that stayed true to the classic while adding a new and modern flavor.

In many senses, the basic essence of the original film’s plot remained very much intact in this recent rendition. There were no major detractions in terms of characters and scenes, and the original score of the movie carried the musical track of the new film. Yet even still, Disney added a new zest to this version of Beauty and The Beast by building upon the base laid by the original film. The childhood and pasts of both Belle and the Beast were more heavily emphasized in this rendition. A few new songs, none of which were exceptionally noteworthy one way or the other, found their way into the film. “Be Our Guest” took on a more contemporary and neon-colored flavor. The witch who originally cursed the Beast was present throughout the entirety of the plot as a resident of Belle’s small village. And Disney put forth its first openly–albeit subtly–gay character in Lefou, Gaston’s friend and admiring sidekick.

In light of all of these additions, I think that the most prominent ones were those made to Belle’s character. While Belle certainly maintained her bookishness and quirkiness from the original film, she also gained a greater air of independence, courage, and resolve than I found to be present in the original film. Not only did she assist her father in his inventions and creations, but she was something of an everyday innovator herself, concocting new ideas for how to do laundry and teaching a local girl how to read. We saw Belle’s steadfastness, strength, and stubbornness portrayed to a greater degree than it had been before, a decision that I believe was influenced by Emma Watson, the actress who played Belle in the film. Watson’s actions as an advocate for feminism and equal rights were mirrored through Belle’s autonomous and selfless decisions throughout the film. Watson was not the only one who shone in their role. Emma Thompson, Luke Evans, and Audra McDonald were also among those whose acting and singing bolstered the film.

Like any good fairytale, Beauty and The Beast proselytized several important lessons, including of the dangers of mob mentality, the importance of goodwill and kindness, and the necessity of never judging a book by its cover, making it a film applicable and enjoyable for all. Shown in its original language and with Italian subtitles, Beauty and The Beast is a film that all can and should see!

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