Beauty and the Beast
My all-time favorite Disney movie. Belle is my favorite princess. The movie is a beloved classic and was the first animated film to ever be nominated for an Academy Award. It did not win that title, but did win Best Original Song, Beauty and the Beast and Best Original Score. Angela Landsbury will always be Mrs. Potts, even though I enjoyed her in Bedknobs and Broomsticks (I’ll come around to that movie when I do musicals) and Murder, She Wrote. I learned of David Ogden Stiers as Cogsworth long before I realized he was Major Charles Winchester on M*A*S*H. He went on to voice several other Disney characters (and sadly passed away in March of this year). Never made the connection between Jerry Orbach (you all probably know him from Law and Order, or maybe as Baby’s father in Dirty Dancing) and Lumiere until the 25th Anniversary disc and my parents made a comment.
The opening music to the 1991 animated film is very similar to Aquarium by Camille Saint-Saëns; the eerie runs of the piano, though they seem to differ slightly in key. Beauty and the Beast also has strings backing and changing the tone; not quite so haunted and nightmarish but still setting the stage for something magical. Instead of a storybook introduction, the narrator (David Ogden Stiers) is accompanied by a stained-glass depiction. A spoiled prince is faced with a beggar woman wishing to come in from the cold; for such kindness, she offers a rose. But the prince refuses, twice, even when cautioned that “true beauty is found within.” Upon the second refusal, the beggar transforms into a beautiful enchantress (“enchantresses” are good, “witches” are evil). The enchantress then casts a spell/curse (depending on how you want to look at it) on the prince, transforming him into a beast and all who dwell in the castle into objects as punishment (why punish the servants who most likely had nothing to do with it and are already dealing with a horrible prince?) In order to break the spell/curse, the prince must fall in love with a woman and the woman must love him in return. In the animated version, the deadline is his twenty-first birthday. If not, then the prince is doomed to remain a beast for all time.
Years go by and we are next introduced to Belle, who dreams of excitement and adventure opposed to the “quiet village” with “every day like the one before.” “There must be more than this provincial life!” she dreams. The villagers, while remarking on her beauty, also consider her a “funny girl,” “strange,” “rather odd;” simply put, “she’s different from the rest of us.” They also claim that “it’s a pity and a sin, she doesn’t quite fit in.” Belle visits the bookshop [oddly, not listed in French, like the rest of the village] where she is gifted her favorite book. As many bookworms are wont, she eagerly shares the story with anyone near, including a passing flock of sheep (yes, that book foreshadows the tale to come). Local star hunter and overly-muscled man, Gaston claims that since she’s the most beautiful girl, that makes her the best and worthy of him, since he is the most handsome man. The silly trio of matching young women call him a “strong and handsome brute.” (That should be a clue). After the song, when Gaston approaches Belle, he informs her that it’s not right for girls to read. They start thinking and getting ideas, to which Belle retorts “Gaston, you are positively primeval.” (The dunce thanks her, not knowing she insulted him).
Belle’s father, Maurice, being an inventor, is not the best judge of what is “odd.” I’ve always thought his wood-chopping invention was unnecessarily complicated. But he leaves the next day for a fair and gets lost (despite having gone to the fair several times previous). Those woods do not look friendly and Phillipe is smart and wants to leave. Until they’re set upon by wolves and are separated. Maurice finds the beast’s enchanted castle and enters in search of help and safety. Inside, he hears strange voices coming from nowhere (Lumiere and Cogsworth talking, but, a candlestick and mantle clock shouldn’t be talking). Maurice eventually picks them up and discovers they are enchanted and he’s…perfectly fine. They let him sit by the fire and bring him tea, which displeases their master. The Beast is angry that this man has entered his domain and throws him in prison (harsh, but we already know he’s unreasonable).
Back in the village, Gaston has set up his wedding and still has to propose to the girl. He claims that he will make all of Belle’s dreams come true. She rightly points out he knows nothing about her dreams; and they certainly do not include massaging his stinky feet, bearing six sons, and keeping track of dogs. Attempting to remain polite, Belle tells Gaston, “I don’t deserve you,” while opening the door and letting him fall into a mud puddle. Gaston vows, “I’ll have Belle as my wife, make no mistake of that.” Very ominous. Once he’s gone, Belle emerges and reprises why she does not want to be “boorish, brainless” Gaston’s “little wife,” and she desires to live great adventures. “And for once, it might be grand/to have someone understand.”
Phillipe appears and leads Belle to the castle (which he was never at). Lumiere secretly guides Belle to her father (after exclaiming to Cogsworth “It’s a girl! She’s come to break the spell!” [let’s not rush to conclusions, Lumiere]). She offers to take Maurice’s place, but doesn’t agree until she sees exactly who she is dealing with. The Beast [he’s never named; common consensus amongst the fandom is Adam] remains heartless and ushers Maurice out before he can even bid farewell to his daughter. Lumiere does get the Beast to agree to giving Belle her own room, since she would be with them for some time (aka, forever). The Beast informs Belle that she may go anywhere in the castle, it is her home now, except the West Wing. His parting words are “You will join me for dinner. That’s not a request.”
Back in town, Gaston is moping. “Disgraced, publically humiliated” because someone actually said no to him. LeFou, Gaston’s little stooge and punching bag, riles the town up into singing Gaston’s praises (boiling down to Gaston being the manliest of men). Gotta say, not impressed by someone whose every inch is covered in hair, nor by someone as large as a barge. Maurice stumbles in at the end, pleading for help to rescue Belle. Everyone laughs at him and his claims of a “horrible, monstrous beast!” Even Gaston throws him out, declaring him to be crazy and old, yet leading the muscular man to “thinking.” *Gasp!* “A dangerous pastime.” Since Maurice is Belle’s father, he can manipulate the man and essentially blackmail Belle into marrying him. And the villagers see absolutely no harm in this. (We discover a little later that Gaston’s plan involves locking Maurice up in an asylum. The film hints that this is bad, and historically it was. When Maurice wasn’t home, Gaston leaves LeFou to watch the house…in the snow.)
At the castle, Lumiere is sure that Belle and the Beast will be in love by midnight, breaking the spell. Mrs. Potts cautions that such things take time. And not aided by Belle refusing to come to dinner. Beast loses his temper, as he is wont, but Belle stands up to him (through the safety of her door). He thunders, “if she doesn’t eat with me, she doesn’t eat at all.” Well, when Belle emerges later, Mrs. Potts is not about to let the girl starve. After all, she is their guest. The kitchen whips up the production Be Our Guest (for what would dinner in France be without a little music?), which gives us a glimpse at their life. [This is also where some incongruity comes in. Lumiere at one point states “ten years, we’ve been rusting.” Meaning, if the rose is wilting and almost dead, that the Beast is now twenty-one, thus, making him only eleven when the curse was cast. What enchantress curses an eleven-year-old? And where are the parents? This is solved in the live action version] I loved this sequence as a child; all the flashing lights, the singing, the dancing. (I’m sure it was a delight to adapt to Broadway.)
Afterwards, Lumiere and Cogsworth take Belle on a tour of the castle. Unfortunately, they point out the West Wing. They realize their error at her interest and attempt to distract her with a library. While they dance off, Belle stays and moves on. It is a foreboding part of the castle, gargoyles at every corner, eventually coming to the Beast’s destroyed chambers. There’s a slashed portrait on the wall. There’s a pause on the eyes (hint hint), but then the glowing rose catches Belle’s attention. She removes the glass cloche and is about to touch it when the Beast leaps out, screaming to “Get Out!” Belle flees the castle, but is set upon the wolves. (This part frightened me as a child.) Beast, realizing that his temper has gotten the best of him again, goes after her and rescues her. She makes a good stand, arming herself with a stick, but there are too many wolves. The Beast does incur some wounds and Belle takes him back to the castle (hesitating for a moment; this could be her only chance to escape). Inside, Belle tends to his wounds amidst verbal sparring. She shouldn’t have run off. She wouldn’t have if he hadn’t frightened her. She should have stayed away from an area termed “forbidden” (though really, what can you expect? It’s human nature to want what we can’t have. Tell us “don’t go somewhere,” and what do we want to do? Go there.) Well, he should learn to control his temper. Belle’s got him there. She still quietly thanks him for saving her life.
Over the course of the next few days/weeks (not entirely sure how long…might be days because we later see Maurice still in the woods. Can’t imagine it taking weeks to find the castle. And this is why people claim “Stockholm Syndrome.” My argument…at least she’s not instantly falling in love with him, unlike some princesses.) Beast and Belle slowly fall in love, realizing there’s Something There. They both admit that once they get to know one another, they see the kinder parts (hitting on the “true beauty is found within” from the prologue). Beast admits to Lumiere and Cogsworth “I’ve never felt this way about anyone.” Cogsworth throws in a joke about giving Belle “promises you don’t intend to keep.” [This was thrown in by David Ogden Stiers]. But soon they agree upon gifting Belle Beast’s enormous library. I. Want. That. Library. It’s massive; I can only wonder at how many books. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, you need a ladder to reach a good portion. I love Belle because she reads.
The 25th Anniversary brought us another song that had been originally written for the film, but had been cut due to time. The Broadway production showcased Human Again, and the anniversary disc brought to life the full animated number. The objects are looking forward to being human again and returning to their lives. Cogsworth wants to retire to get away from Lumiere. At the end, Belle is reading to Beast, Romeo and Juliet (I think in some versions it is a tale about Guinevere and Arthur), encouraging Beast to read again. While they sing, the castle is cleaning itself up in preparation for that evening.
The iconic section of the film, and my favorite part, the ballroom follows. Mrs. Potts lovingly sings their tale, “barely even friends/then somebody bends, unexpectedly. Just a little change/small to say the least/both a little scared/ neither one prepared/Beauty and the Beast.” This is my favorite Disney love song. The dance is the most complicatedly choreographed of the princesses, and it was a technical masterpiece for its time, being the first time to use CGI (the background). [I discovered this in Tale as Old as Time: The Art and Making of Beauty and the Beast, by Charles Solomon; a behind-the-scenes history of making the classic film with some input on the 2017 live-action remake. I splurged because it’s my favorite.] I was fascinated by the little cherubs moving on the ceiling to watch the dance as a child.
After their dance, Beast leads Belle out onto the balcony and asks if she is happy at the castle, with him. She replies “yes,” but she also misses her father. Beast then shows her his magic mirror, which allows him to see anything he wants (he’s used it previously to see her in his castle, when he was sure she could never love him). Belle sees her father in trouble and Beast releases her from her promise to stay at the castle. He gifts her the mirror, so she can look back on him. She rides off after her father and the enchanted objects wonder aloud “why?” Mrs. Potts realizes that Beast has finally learned to love. But Belle hasn’t openly returned his love, so they are not free of the curse.
LeFou witnesses Belle and Maurice’s return and informs Gaston. The hunter comes knocking with the man from the asylum in tow. The crowd once again laughs at Maurice’s claims, and Belle actually begs Gaston for help. He’ll help, for a price: her hand in marriage. She refuses again and decides to prove her father’s story, showing everyone the Beast in the mirror. This just frightens the villagers and further turn them against Belle and Maurice. Gaston locks them in their cellar and agitates the mob into a frenzy. The Mob Song extols their fears and how they’ll kill the Beast. “We don’t like/what we don’t understand/and it scares us/and this monster is mysterious at least.”
Throughout, Belle realizes she has to warn the Beast. Once the mob reaches the castle, the enchanted objects band together to fight off the encroachers. What is a bit more terrifying as an adult is realizing that the mob is stating “here we come, we’re fifty strong/and fifty Frenchmen can’t be wrong.” Beast is so morose, he allows the invaders to simply come, it doesn’t matter anymore. In the animated version, Chip snuck away in Belle’s bag and is able to start Maurice’s invention, chopping down the door to the cellar, freeing them.
The objects surprise the invading villagers and fight them off soundly; except for Gaston, who sneaks up into the castle. He eventually comes across the Beast (who at this point, just wishes for death). Gaston taunts Beast, “did you honestly think she’d want you, when she had someone like me?” Frankly, the man is a maniac, laughing manically as he causes another being pain. He enjoys hunting the Beast. Beast refuses to fight back until he hears Belle below. Then he turns his strength against Gaston. Gaston, free for a moment declares “Belle is mine!” In response, Beast picks Gaston up by his neck and dangles him over the edge. Gaston begs for his life, “I’ll do anything!” Beast’s reply: “Get out.” Beast turns his back on Gaston to reach Belle. Gaston uses it as an opportunity to stab Beast in the back. Belle manages to pull Beast to safety while Gaston falls and plummets to his death. The damage has been done to Beast. He’s happy to see Belle, one last time, then closes his eyes as the last petal falls. Belle cries “please don’t leave me. I love you.” The last three words break the curse. Lights shoot down and Beast rises in his cape, transforming back into a prince. [I also love the music that plays here, the trumpet fanfare and the deliberate march, the strings simply holding notes so the straight beat is emphasized].
Belle doesn’t recognize the prince at first, but the eyes are her clue. We get our kiss and the castle transforms back, the rain turning to gold glitter. We see Lumiere, Cogsworth, Plumette, Mrs. Potts, and Chip as humans. A reprise of the ball and Beauty and the Beast signify a happy ending. The closing shot is a new stained glass window, Belle and the prince happily dancing.
I adore Josh Groban singing If I Can’t Love Her from the Broadway production. Well, I tend to love Josh Groban singing anything. I don’t really remember the song from the versions of the show I’ve seen. The year after I graduated high school, they did Beauty and the Beast and one of my friends was cast as Belle, so I went to see it. I also went to a neighboring school while I was in school to see their version. And found out recently that a work friend was in the production; we’ve found that our paths crossed years before we worked together. (We went to see the new movie together).
The blu-ray copy of the 2017 live action remake offers the option of watching the movie with an overture; like a traditional Broadway musical that weaves all the themes together to give a taste. And unlike the live action update to Cinderella, Disney kept Beauty and the Beast as the full musical. This film features Emma Watson (Hermione Granger from Harry Potter) as Belle, Dan Stevens (Matthew Crowley from Downton Abbey) as the Beast, supported by Luke Evans (Bard from The Hobbit) as Gaston, Josh Gad (the voice of Olaf from Frozen) as LeFou, Emma Thompson (Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter) as Mrs. Potts, Ian McKellan (Gandalf from both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) as Cogsworth, Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars prequels), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman from The Hunger Games) as new character Maestro Cadenza, and Tony award winning Audra McDonald as Madame Garderobe. (Do you think they could get any more A-list actors and actresses in the movie? But I love all of them in their roles.)
I like the touch of Disney changing the castle to match the movie. The prologue, narrated by Emma Thompson, has been updated and fills in some plot holes. The enchantress erased the memory of the castle and its inhabitants from the village (because, wouldn’t the village [named Villeneuve this time around] have remembered their rulers at some point?) and by this point, both of the prince’s parents have passed on and he’s a grown adult. The rose will bloom, but there’s no end age given. We don’t get a full glimpse of any of the servants yet (Spoiler: they’re fully revealed at the end of the movie.) Audra McDonald’s soprano voice lends an overall realism to the film. The terms of the curse are the same.
Personally, I think casting Emma Watson as Belle was genius; it combines my two favorite bookworms: Hermione Granger and Belle. And I think she sounds wonderful, again bringing a realistic sound to the movie (not that I have anything against the original’s Paige O’Hara). New characters have been added and major characters have been expanded. The bookseller is now Pére Robert, which makes it more historically accurate, since the priest would have been the most educated and most likely to have books. The book Belle is reading is Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona, again lending authenticity to the story. I liked the touch of Pére Robert telling Belle “bon voyage!” as she leaves, since Belle uses it as an escape and feels like she’s visiting other places.
I was also surprised by Luke Evans’ performance. I was unaware that he gotten his start on stage, and his voice had me almost swooning in my seat the first time I watched the movie. I actually enjoy this version of LeFou (despite finding Josh Gad as Olaf annoying). I laughed at LeFou pointing out to Gaston that Belle is so well read and he’s so…athletically inclined [read: not well read]. He focuses more on how Belle is unlike everyone else. I like this version of Gaston at times, till his true colors start showing. Tee hee, the silly girls are splashed with mud. As for the chorus, it’s nice to hear a fuller mixture of tones; again, more realistic.
Belle is more blunt with Gaston. She is not busy, she just doesn’t want to have dinner with Gaston. As Gaston remarks to LeFou, she has…dignity. How outrageously attractive. Yes it is. But you still should not refer to the woman you wish to court as “prey.”
Maurice creates music boxes in this iteration and his home is filled with paintings and sketches. A new song was written for the movie, How Does a Moment Last Forever. We get glimpses of Belle’s mother (someone not even mentioned in the animation). She too was different from other people, but they learned to admire her. She was incredibly fearless. Maurice takes his creations to sell at a market and will bring Belle home a rose, like the one in his painting. Belle is the inventor, creating a new way to do laundry because she isn’t content with how things are. It also allows her time to read, or more importantly, teach another young girl how to read. The village’s headmaster sneers that one girl reading is enough. Another old woman remarks that something must be done about Belle. They dump her laundry and Pére Robert is the only one to help Belle clean it up. LeFou calls Gaston to the rescue. The hunter’s advice to Belle is that the simple folk of the village don’t trust change, and if Belle is not careful, she’ll end up like the hag, Agathe; a spinster once her father passes. He encourages her instead to consider a future with a certain man from the village. However, Belle has met all the men of the village and she has no desire to start a family with any of them. This may be Gaston’s world, but it’s not hers. She firmly tells Gaston “I am never going to marry you,” closing the door (literally) on their conversation. Once he’s gone, we get an imitation of The Sound of Music hill scene; Belle escaping the village, yearning for someone who understands.
Maurice’s path is blocked with lightning strikes a tree, though he’s aware enough to notice it snowing, in June. Wolves slink out of the trees and give chase to he and Phillipe. They once again find the castle for shelter. This Maurice is more perplexed by the enchanted objects and starts to leave. However, he catches sight of a rose garden and picks one for Belle. There’s a shadowy creature that stops him and Phillipe runs off. The horse finds Belle the next morning and she rides off (in far more sensible clothing).
This Belle also arms herself (admittedly, it’s a stick, but it’s better than nothing) before entering the castle. Her father cautions her that the castle is alive. A deep voice proclaims Maurice a thief, for taking a rose. Belle rebuts that the rose was for her, she should be punished. Maurice warns the punishment is life in prison. The voice retorts he “received eternal damnation for one,” he’s only locking this man up. Belle once again offers herself in Maurice’s place, casting light onto the captor, revealing the Beast. She even argues that “forever can spare a minute,” so she can say good-bye to her father. She’s clever and pushes Maurice out of the cell, locking herself in so her father can be free, promising to escape.
It is Lumiere who frees Belle, and continuing to show spunk, she arms herself with a stool, uneasy hearing a disembodied voice. She even uses it, and re-arms with a pitcher at Cogsworth’s appearance. They are the ones to show Belle to a suite and explain a bit about the castle, including the off limits West Wing. As Belle enters her room, which is exquisite, if a little dusty the tune Home from the Broadway show can be heard (I love this song too and grinned when I heard it in theatre). Plumette’s role is expanded in the live action version, beyond Lumiere’s fling. The hideous gown that Madame de Garderobe puts Belle in supplies materials for Belle to make a rope with which to escape.
I also honestly prefer the new version of Gaston; I read in a magazine or book or somewhere that LeFou’s character was updated a bit; the violent humor not appropriate for live action (very true). He’s fleshed out and not simply a stooge. Still over the top, but I think that suits Josh Gad’s personality. The friendship is still skewed in Gaston’s favor and LeFou still hangs on his every word but this Gaston at least attempts to be a friend, complimenting LeFou at the end of the scene. I also enjoyed the added dancing element and wish they would have made it longer. Gaston’s character now has a backstory (not entirely made clear in the movie, but in the additional material), he’s a war hero; Maurice calls him “Captain” at one point. Gaston does not care about being fair in hunting (not good news for the woman he refers to as “prey.”) LeFou remarks on his own illiteracy at the end (proving the importance of education and reading). When Maurice enters the tavern, Gaston stands up for him, instead of laughing at him. His ulterior motive, which LeFou quickly guesses is that helping Maurice will earn him points with Belle.
Come suppertime at the castle, the Beast enters his dining room to discover that his servants have set a place for his prisoner. And further discovers that they’ve given her a suite in the East Wing, well, Cogsworth rats out Lumiere. They’re urging a romance because they’re becoming less human every day. Beast retorts that “she is the daughter of a common thief.” Mrs. Potts comes back with “you can’t judge people by who their father are, now can you?” giving the Beast a significant look. (Not too much of a stretch for the audience at this point to guess that the Beast’s father may have something to do with how spoilt he became, leading to his curse.) So, the Beast “politely” pounds on Belle’s door, telling her to come to dinner. The servants figure she is scared to death in her room. Not so much, more like working on an escape attempt. I admire how Belle stands up to the Beast. She calls the Beast “insane,” prompting the Beast’s outburst of “if she doesn’t eat with me, she doesn’t eat at all.” That fury scares Belle, so when the Beast uses the magic mirror minutes later, he sees her curled up in a corner.
Mrs. Potts enters a while later. Instead of being angry or upset at Belle’s escape attempt, the kindly housekeeper simply offers the young woman a warm cup of tea before she leaves. That leads to Mrs. Potts commenting on dinner and leads Belle to the dining room. Maestro Cadenza is part of the ensemble, the husband of Madame de Garderobe, and Lumiere carries on with his production of Be Our Guest. It’s truly a CG marvel, but lacks a little bit of the whimsy of the original animated version. “Ten years” is removed, so as to not date the characters. For those paying attention, when Lumiere sings “they can sing, they can dance/after all miss, this is France,” he uses the butcher’s knife as a guillotine. Ewan McGregor as Lumiere has the singing chops and charisma to help carry the number (he has previously stared in Down With Love and Moulin Rouge).
After dinner, Belle remarks to her new friends, “I don’t understand why you all are being so kind to me? Surely you are trapped her as I am? Don’t you ever want to escape?” Mrs. Potts swears that the master is not as terrible as he seems, underneath he’s really a “prince…of a fellow.” She sends Belle to bed, but Belle takes the opportunity to explore the West Wing. She makes her way to the Beast’s chambers, witnessing the scratched portraits. In the family depiction, the mother is spared claw marks. Again, she’s entranced by the rose and the Beast scares her. She flees, evading Frou Frou, the fancy footstool, ignoring Lumiere’s plea “please don’t go, it’s dangerous!”, but once again, doesn’t make it far before wolves attack. She lands some hits with a small branch, but she’s still lucky that the Beast came along when he did. After the brief battle, Belle returns to the castle with the Beast and they have the same banter, ending in Beast needing to learn to control his temper.
In another part of the woods, Maurice is endeavoring to lead Gaston and LeFou to the castle, but Gaston has had enough with Maurice’s story. LeFou even whispers “you really want to marry into this family?” Magic, Gaston insists, is not real. But wolves, starvation, and freezing to death are. He admits that he only came because he wants to marry Belle. Maurice refuses on her behalf and Gaston, despite LeFou’s efforts at calming him (with thoughts of the war…and widows. Not entirely how LeFou means that. Does he mean Gaston slept with widows? Or enjoyed killing and thus making widows?) punches Maurice, then ties him to a tree. If the old man won’t help him, then he is in Gaston’s way. LeFou wants to explore other options rather than murder, but Gaston threatens to leave without him. Agathe wanders by in the morning and rescues Maurice.
While the Beast sleeps off his wounds, Mrs. Potts explains his tale to Belle – leaving out the details of the curse, particularly how it’s lifted. They stood by and did nothing when the Beast’s father corrupted his son after his mother’s death. The servants earned their fate and it’s not Belle’s concern how to lift the curse. The group separates, reminiscing their Days in the Sun (another new number written for the movie). Belle realizes that she’s changing in her short time at the castle. Before, she was “innocent and certain/now I’m wiser but unsure.” She’s “stronger now, but still not free.” The Beast later wakes to Belle reciting Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, which he joins in on. She’s surprised he knows Shakespeare, to which he retorts, he had an “expensive” education.” But he’s not impressed that her favorite play is Romeo and Juliet, claiming it to be full of heartache and pining. There are so many better things to read. “Like what?” Belle urges. Again, that library is beautiful. And even more so because it’s realistic! (This is why Oxford library is at the top of Places I Want to Visit list.) I made the same squeal that Belle did when Beast gifted it, even after making a joke about of course he hasn’t read all the books, some of them are in Greek! For a girl who has had only a handful of books to read over and over for her entire life, now her world has exploded!
Again, the couple slowly falls for each other, seeing Something There that they didn’t notice before. The pair reads at the dinner table, soon sitting next to each other. Belle helps the castle clean and Beast nails her with a giant snowball. A quiet interlude was added with the couple in the rose garden, discussing Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, and the Knights of the Round Table, and commiserating how laughter dies when they enter a room. Belle admits that the villagers call her a “funny girl,” and not as a compliment. Beast states that her village sounds horrible; they should run away. And he has a way to do so. This enchantress left another gift, a book that can transport you to anywhere you want to do. But he remains a Beast and there is nowhere in the world he’d be accepted. But Belle can now see all the places she’s read about. He encourages her to “think of the one place you’ve always to see. Now, find it in your mind’s eye and feel in it your heart.” They are transported to the windmill apartment where she was born. Her father never told her how her mother died, but Beast recognizes a doctor’s mask (one of those old, terrifying ones), and deduces “plague.” He apologizes for ever calling her father a thief. Now knowing, Belle whispers “let’s go home.” (Huge clue as to their relationship status!)
LeFou still wants to return to the forest to rescue Maurice (we discover it’s been five days). They don’t need to; he’s in the tavern and accuses Gaston of attempted murder. Gaston sidesteps the charges, pointing out that he wants to marry Belle, why would he harm her father? And one cannot trust the word of a beggar woman. Maurice turns to LeFou, but Gaston pressures his “dearest companion, oldest friend and most loyal compatriot.” Gaston turns the accusation onto Maurice, claiming his ravings make him a danger to himself and to others. Some other men of the village move forward to take him away. LeFou is visibly unsettled by what transpired.
The Beast apparently told Belle that she looked so beautiful in the ballroom, so they should have a dance. She agreed and now they are preparing. His servants insist that he tell her how he feels, because if not, the Beast will have to suffer through cold tea in the dark and dust for the rest of his days. (A humorous bit is that they discover his old style of make-up does not suit his current form.) I love the updates to the classic outfits. The embroidery on the Beast’s coat lends a regal touch. Belle’s new dress simply floats over the floor and seems more comfortable. The dance is magical, the choreography elegant; the candles during the lift look like stars. I do have to admit, I prefer Angela Landsbury singing to Emma Thompson. It’s a beloved song from my childhood, I tend to be stubborn about change. Beast timidly probes Belle whether he has earned her affection. Sadly, Belle can’t be truly happy if she’s not free. She still misses her father. Beast offers his mirror and she witnesses Maurice in trouble. Beast releases her; she’s free. He still insists that she keeps the mirror, so she can look back on him.
And the song that makes my heart melt every time, Evermore (my mother and I contest who sings it better, Dan Stevens or Josh Groban [I the former, she the latter, there’s something that strikes me to the core about the deeper voice]). The Beast bemoans that he once thought he was master of his fate. But he let a woman steal into his melancholy heart. She’s changed him, forever. He will always remember her, but now she is physically gone. But her presence left a lasting mark that will never leave him. “Now I know, she’ll never leave me/Even as she fades from view./She will still inspire me/be a part of everything I do.”
In the village, a mob has amassed to send Maurice off to the asylum; Pére Robert tries to stop them, but no one listens. Maurice refuses Belle’s hand to Gaston again and Belle rides in as they lock the coach, still in her gold gown. She begs the crowd to free her father, even asking Gaston for help. Gaston claims loyalty to her family, but her father’s claims are too wild. Her word alone is not proof, she would say anything to rescue her father. The mirror shows them the Beast, but Gaston sees it as sorcery, dark magic [Luke, you’re letting your Bard out, lol]. Clearly, Belle is under some sort of spell, especially when she spouts that Gaston is the monster, not the creature in the mirror. He has her locked away as well and now has “a threat to their very existence” to destroy. LeFou protests, but Gaston threatens he’s next. The former captain riles up the mob, “you can bet they all will follow/for in times like this they’ll do just as I say.” LeFou, now really wondering what side he’s on, mutters, “there’s a beast running wild, there’s no question/but I fear the wrong monster’s released.” The mob marches to the castle and the servants must prepare to defend their home. Beast is still despondent. Meanwhile, Belle reveals that she knows the truth of what happened to her mother and asks her father for help. Yes, it’s dangerous. But Maurice can see that his daughter loves the Beast. He can pick the lock, “after all, it’s just tumblers and gears.”
Cogsworth sounds so much like Gandalf for a moment when he orders the objects to man the barricades (hmm, I wonder why?). Madame de Garderobe still dresses up three of the village men in gowns, though this time, one likes it. She comes to her husband’s rescue, shouting “this is it! The fat lady is singing!” when a crotchety woman orders “silence that harpsichord!” LeFou catches Mrs. Potts and informs her that he has changed sides; he and Gaston are in a bad place. She tells him he is too good for Gaston. The hunter has snuck up the stairs and found the Beast on a tower. He tries to hurt the Beast first by saying “Belle sent me,” then fires his pistol (more violent that the arrows in the animated film). When he goes for his crossbow, Belle is behind him (in her undergarments, having discarded the gold gown), snapping the arrows. Incensed, Gaston tells Belle, “when we return to the village, you will marry me. And that beast’s head will hang on our wall.” They struggle for his pistol, the crumbling castle giving way beneath Gaston, knocking the gun away temporarily (Gaston merely falls one level).
The sight of Belle spurs the Beast on. Gaston pounces and pummels the Beast. Belle’s cry has Beast turning and dangling Gaston over the edge. The hunter begs for mercy and Beast releases him, ordering him to “get out.” He finally turns back to Belle and at the last leap, Gaston’s second shot hits him in the back. He reloads for a third shot, sending the Beast careening onto his balcony. The archway beneath the man gives way and he falls to his death (you can actually hear a small thud at the end). Belle and the Beast share a tearful reunion, but three bullet wounds take their toll and the Beast closes his eye as the last petal falls. This time, we witness the servants turn fully into objects, first Plumete, Garderobe, Cadenza, and Frou Frou. Then Mrs. Potts as she’s looking for Chip, Chip a moment after his mother has gone silent. Finally, Cogsworth and Lumiere. I cried in the theatre. I knew it couldn’t end that way, but it was still heart wrenching. Belle finally whispers “please don’t leave me, I love you.” A kiss to his brow breaks the curse and Agathe (revealed to be the enchantress) casts a golden light that surrounds the Beast as he transforms back into a prince. They did a better job this time of matching the eyes between Beast and the prince. (Dan Stevens as the prince is very handsome) And hurrah for a kiss! The golden light rains down on the castle, changing it back and bringing the servants back as human. Turns out, when the enchantress erased the memory of the castle, a few spouses were stuck in the village. The forgetful Monsieur Jean is Mr. Potts, and the crotchety woman is Cogsworth’s wife (he’s not happy to see her, hoping to turn back into a clock…because she’s been lonely).
The Finale is beautiful; Belle has a new dress, the prince is in light blue and Audra MacDonald shines as a soprano [I like to sing along to this piece in the privacy of my car so I can drop into my operatic voice and savor the high notes; well, not the last, I’d need to warm up more that]. Emma sings the forgotten verse of Beauty and the Beast. LeFou and Stanley share a brief dance (there was a bit of an uproar of Disney including a gay character. It was barely a minute, leave it be). Belle wants the prince to grow a beard and he responds with a flirty growl.
[Fun note: the credits include French job titles]
Along with the Broadway adaptation, there have been a few television shows and direct-to-video stories connected with the animated film. I’m sure I saw some of them, but I could not tell you which since I don’t remember and don’t own any.
As I stated at the opening, Belle is my favorite princess (I told her as much when I met the costumed actress in Disney World), primarily because she reads. I have loved reading since I was a child; my parents read to me from a very young age and I would enjoy sitting and reading for hours on end. Still do, though most of the time it’s online fanfiction anymore…my stack of books to be read is ever-growing (and to imitate Ariel a little), I want more. Just like Belle, I loved going to far-off places and on daring adventures immersed in a book. “With her nose stuck in a book,” described me a good portion of my young school days. I always had a “book for fun,” with me in school, so I could occupy myself if class finished early. Even in college; I’d read before classes start, I’d read during lunch, I’d spend weekends lying on my bed, reading. Indoor recess; I read (I overheard some other girls ask my friend why she liked hanging out with me because I read so much). My favorite room in any school was the library and I’d always befriend the librarian. For a long time, my career goal was to become a librarian (life did not go according to plan). The career goal that stuck with me, however, is to become an author so I can tell all the stories in my head to others.
And just like Belle, I have always been a bit of a misfit. My dearest wish, same as hers, is “to have someone understand.” (Until then, that is what TV shows/movies and fanfiction are for). So, to see a young woman so very much like me, get a happy ending, still gives me hope (when I beat back the cynicism). She’s feisty, she speaks her mind, she’s not scared away from being different. Belle is a strong and positive role model. Heck, she evens help rescue her prince! A truly great role model for girls and young women.
Speaking of fanfiction; some recommendations!
emjee (MerryHeart) on AO3 has a small series of college Alternate Universe stories featuring Belle and Beast (again, typically named Adam) based on the 2017 counterparts. Still want a guy like Adam 🙂
hester-latterly (also on AO3) has a marvelous tale Honey You’re Familiar (Like My Mirror Years Ago), a modern “marriage of convenience” AU, again based on the 2017 film, wonderfully told and I’m eagerly awaiting its finish.
As always, I welcome your questions or comments. Do you have a version of Beauty and the Beast you prefer?
Up Next: Aladdin