Beauty and the beast of imitation
The nostalgically alluring Beauty and the Beast live-action remake, directed by Bill Condon, has made its debut at UK cinemas nationwide. The film has marketed itself on its ‘21st century upgrade’ and Disney’s version of the traditional fairy tale now has added zeitgeist with CGI, gay characters, transsexual cues and a feminist princess. It is clear that stereotypes have been considered even within the finer casting details. Handsome village villain Gaston’s previously all-blonde female airhead admirers have adopted a new brunette barnet and there is a more ethnically diverse mix of French villagers.
Actress and UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson takes the lead role of Belle, who’s character is an intelligent, strong-minded yet humble young woman unaffected by her aesthetically pleasing outward appearance. Watson can be credited for her refusal to wear a corset, her sustainable wardrobe revamp, edgy ear cuff jewellery additions and foundation-free freckled look, though it seems that so much emphasis has been placed on this contemporary narrative alongside the computer generated visuals and brand appropriate/marketable actors that the natural charisma, chemistry and emotion of the piece has been misplaced.
Belle’s fashion does however reflect a modern day active femme fatale with practical adaptions such as a tool-belt of pockets, bloomers placed under her more restrictive dresses and sturdy boots for escaping through a wolf-invested forest. The iconic yellow ball gown has also had a liberated refurbishment with empowering gold (the colour of success, achievement and triumph) hues and leaf detailing. The accompanying gold necklace charm is symbolic of branches about to unfold, which could be considered a metaphor for personal growth.
Beauty and the Beast has been a personal Disney favourite for me since childhood as it is a triumphant tale focused upon an educated, independent, dignified and strong woman who doesn’t abide by societal expectations. It also represents two outcasts who form a genuine and respectful bond. It overlooks external prejudice and encourages us to form an individual opinion upon those we meet. Although I admire Condon’s moral and ethical additions, I do feel as though the underlying story and its magic has lost some focus. Although Maurice was heartfelt and Gaston and LeFou provided much needed comic relief, the film seemed to plod through its predecessors footprints with an air of lacklustre as though the characters raw renovations and actors/actresses media appeal was enough to carry the film.
The production has perhaps become a bit too clever, the digital household helpers have lost their human element and relatable connection and some of Belle’s sustainable clothing choices are lacking the animated and imaginative pizzazz. The remake should have taken note of its own script, ‘not to be deceived by appearances as beauty is found within’. The films showy exterior and political/cultural references have little emotional substance or support. The rose is also a famed part of the story and if there were to be a sequel then, much like the flower, it can only blossom with both beauty and grit.