In my art history class, my favorite period to learn about was Rococo, because I thought it was ridiculous. All of the art was beautiful, but it was all glitz, no substance. I know a lot of movies like that; so many that sometimes, I walk into the theater expecting it. But the new live-action adaptation of Beauty and The Beast, to my surprise, subverted those expectations.
And yes, I went in costume.
(no one cosplays in public like Gaston, after all)
*SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD*
I really want to kick off this review by discussing the controversy surrounding the newest reincarnation of the “tale as old as time”. No, I’m not talking about the bestiality thing. I’m talking about Lefou!
Before the movie’s theatrical release, it was made known that there was going to be a “gay moment” (this was the phrasing) somewhere in that 2 hour 19 minute runtime. And people freaked the fuck out, for all sorts of reasons. I can’t speak for everyone, but as a queer person and a huge fan of the original, it made me about 200% more excited to see the movie. But I also think that it might have been better to keep quiet about the new subplot and let the viewers see it for themselves, instead of letting me rev up my expectations like that. I mean, for all the dirt this kicked up in the Disney fandom, I expected a lot more gay in that moment.
But I’m still happy. Now that I’ve addressed the nontroversy, time for an actual evaluation of this new subplot. First off, I can’t rightly say that they “made Lefou gay” in this movie. (I mean, have you seen the original?) But what they did do (delve deeper into a side character’s motivations and create an interesting subplot without making major changes to the source material) was excellent, and a real step in the right direction for Disney. (also anyone who claims Finding Dory was Disney’s first queer representation is just incorrect) *
It was all of the subtleties of Josh Gad’s performance that drove it home for me. I read a good take on his character online, something like “he doesn’t know if he wants to kiss (Gaston), or be him.” That’s really the most accurate way to sum it up, and it’s a pretty relatable narrative (
personally, at least). It all led to a frankly impressive new dynamic, and speaking as an LGBTQ person and a Disney fan, I loved it. No matter how gay it was or wasn’t, it added a lot of emotional complexity to the Lefou/Gaston dynamic, and most importantly, gave a minor character the development he deserves.
Now, onto the rest of the movie. Not only did it expand on Lefou’s character, but also Maurice, and the Beast himself. Even the score got a new addition, Alan Menken’s fabulous solo piece “Evermore.” I’ve probably listened to this song more times than anything else in my iTunes library by now. It’s just beautiful, especially the Josh Groban version. Speaking of music, Emma Thompson gave a lovely rendition of “Beauty and The Beast,” and Josh Gad absolutely stole the show with “Gaston.”
I’d probably watch a two-hour movie of just that scene. Luke Evans was hilarious. Maybe it’s because I saw it on its opening day, but something I really noticed about this movie is how its audience reacted to it. I heard gasps, laughs, even applause at times, and I think that’s an indicator that a movie’s really hit the mark with its audience.
On the flip side, there were also some things I really disliked about this movie, namely Emma Watson’s autotune. It’s like no one’s learned anything from Les Mis or hell, even La La Land. No matter how much singing talent your lead has (or doesn’t have), it’s always going to sound better on its own. Similarly, another thing that bugged me was the heavy voice modulation the Beast had. Dan Stevens is obviously very talented, but it’s hard to tell behind that many layers of sound editing. I think the crew behind BATB probably had a bit of trouble with the character design of the Beast in general, since he ended up a lot less expressive than he was in the animated version.
The last of the beef I have with this movie is for some of the expansion of Belle’s character. Personally, I don’t think she needed any; she’s already an interesting, dynamic character. And with a father like Maurice, I had zero questions about her mother that needed to be answered. Especially not in the ridiculously contrived way the movie decided to reveal this information to us. A magical book that transports you anywhere you want? I see no reason for a sorceress to leave such a gift behind for a man she’s cursed.
Overall, this movie was full of surprises. I think the Disney purists will be pleased, along with more casual fans, and especially the families whose kids drag them to every PG-and-under movie that’s released. BATB manages to adapt the original scene by scene without imitating it word for word. It wasn’t the greatest movie in the world, but I’d still say it’s a must-see for fans of the original. However, it’s by no means a replacement.
My advice? Just watch ‘em both.
*Halfway through editing this post, it came to my attention that I was leaving someone out of the “Disney is trying to be just a little gayer” party. Yoo hoo!