By Jill Palmer
“Think of the one thing that you’ve always wanted. Now find it in your mind’s eye and feel it in your heart.” – the Beast
In this retelling of the beloved animated Disney movie, an enchantress transforms a selfish prince (Dan Stevens) into a hideous monster and his servants into various household objects–warning him that if he cannot find someone to love and be loved in return before the last petal of an enchanted rose falls, they will remain that way forever. Belle (Emma Watson) becomes the Beast’s prisoner when she offers herself to him in exchange for her father’s freedom when he is caught taking a rose from the Beast’s garden. By the end of the movie, Belle and the Beast fall in love and the Beast finally returns to his princely self.
For fans of the original movie, several songs from the animated classic make it into the remake. Older viewers will definitely experience a sense of nostalgia when they first hear the songs they fondly remember singing along to as young children. If one doesn’t know the story of Beauty and the Beast, the movie is executed in such a way that does not require prior knowledge of the animated version to fully enjoy it.
The new Beauty and the Beast movie sparked some controversy before it even got to theaters when Disney revealed they planned on introducing their first gay character, LeFou. LeFou, whose name literally means, “The Fool,” is Gaston’s bumbling but attentive sidekick, who seems to be infatuated with the cruel and abusive Gaston. Some people were less than pleased with LeFou’s depiction in the new Beauty and the Beast, claiming that his sexuality was played up for laughs and that he was by no means good representation for the LGBT community.
“It was such a letdown. Disney hyped it up so much for no reason at all. LeFou danced with a guy for half a second at the very end. That’s it. My mom didn’t even understand that he was supposed to be gay until I told her. It shouldn’t count as the first openly gay character,” said PennTech student Madison Shrout. Even so, there were some people who boycotted the movie simply on principle, with some theaters refusing to even show the movie after Disney publicly announced its intentions to portray LeFou as homosexual.
On the other hand, some praise Disney’s portrayal of LeFou as a step in the right direction. LeFou’s sexuality, along with the inclusion of people of color within the film (albeit as extras and background characters) stands apart from the original animated tale.
“I didn’t think it felt forced. LeFou’s sexuality made sense in the context, and while I didn’t like that LeFou didn’t really get his happy ending, I feel like it gives me a lot of hope for the future,” said a student at Juniata.
The actors in the movie were well received by the audience as a whole. Emma Watson as Belle was a huge hit, even among those who grew up watching the animated Beauty and the Beast movie.
Long-time Disney fan Boonie said, “I think she was phenomenal. Emma Watson’s singing voice worked so well as Belle. I don’t think they could’ve done a better job unless they just dubbed the original singing over the movie, and she looks right for the part too. With all these live action remakes going on, I always worry that they won’t get the casting quite right because I’m very picky about these things, but I think they really made the right choice with Emma Watson.”
Beauty and the Beast is set in Rococo-era France, which is reflected in both the manner of dress as well as architecture found within the movie.
Ochs said, “I took art history classes here at Juniata and I thought it was really fun to see all the Baroque art in movie. It seems like they really paid a lot of attention to detail. I loved looking in the background to see if I could find anything I recognized from Survey of Western Art. My family was impressed that I seemed to know so much about art history.”
Beauty and the Beast was uniquely directed from Disney’s other live action remakes. Boonie, who is involved in theater arts and musicals, said, “The movie was directed very much like a musical play. The costuming and lighting seemed very reminiscent of the kind of set up I deal with every single day. Now I keep pushing my boss to let us do the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast. So far he says it’s not going to happen, but I’m pretty sure I can convince him otherwise.”