Be Our Guest: A Review of Disney’s New Beauty and the Beast

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By KATE HAWTHORNE, Staff Writer

On the evening of March 16, 2017, the long-awaited Disney live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast was released in theatres.

The film has been highly anticipated for a variety of reasons. Many fans were curious regarding Disney’s decision to officially proclaim the character Le Fou as gay and their inclusion of a “gay moment” for Le Fou. Quite a few people have been worried about how Disney would portray Le Fou given this development, and a number of others have denounced Disney for this decision.

For many others, particularly those in the Millennial generation, the big appeal of the film is the chance to see Emma Watson – best known for her long-term role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films – playing the part of Belle.

The first Saturday after the film was released, I was able to go and see this new and highly anticipated movie for myself. As a girl, Belle was always one of my favorite Disney princesses, along with Mulan, Pocahontas, and Kida (from The Lost City of Atlantis). Belle’s love of reading and desire to travel resounded with my young self very strongly. Had I seen this version of the movie as a child, my love for Belle would have only grown.

Both Belle’s intelligence and her ultimate goal to travel and get away from “this provincial life” are emphasized even more strongly in this version of the movie. Emma Watson fills this role perfectly, as one would expect from one of the most famous bookworms of the silver screen. Her facial expressions are so evocative and her acting abilities as a whole seem to have grown exponentially since Harry Potter.

One of the most frequent concerns I heard prior to the film’s release was that Emma Watson’s voice might not have the strength or the range to accommodate the large amount of singing required for the character of Belle. Although I have to admit you could tell there was some auto-tuning done to her songs, the amount was exceedingly small when compared to most pop music. Emma Watson’s voice was expressive and fluid throughout every song. If anything, this was what auto-tuning was made for.

Regarding the contentious decision to portray Le Fou as a queer character, I can only say that I would have actually preferred for it to have been a bit more overt. If the audience member was a child, or hadn’t known that Le Fou was being  in this manner, then it would have been very difficult to discern the homosexual undertones intended in Le Fou’s characterization. There is one point in the movie where it becomes glaringly obvious to people of all ages – whether or not they have picked up on prior innuendos – but only for a moment.

While Disney’s subtle depiction of Le Fou’s homosexuality is understandable given the amount of outrage the decision to declare his homosexuality caused, I hope to see, in the future, LGBT+ characters who are more fully and overtly portrayed. This may have been only a tiny step into Disney’s future of more diverse characters, but, hopefully, the next steps will be larger.

Overall, this movie proved to be a grand success. Not only was Emma Watson an amazing Belle, but Josh Gad’s Le Fou was hilarious (especially for those previous aware of his homosexuality), Luke Evans’ Gaston was completely over-the-top and an absolutely wonderful villain, and Dan Stevens explored the character of the Beast in a more in-depth manner than seen in the original cartoon.

And that’s not all! With a supporting cast including Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, and Stanley Tucci, along with some less well-known but equally amazing actors like Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nathan Mack, Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast is an shining reunion with a much-beloved tale. One can only hope that Disney’s forthcoming live-action remakes, as of now still in the planning stages (Mulan being the only one with an announced release year, 2018), will be equally stunning.

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