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It’s finally here – the release of the latest and highly anticipated Disney remake, Beauty and the Beast. But was it worth Emma Watson ditching La La Land?

There’s been all kinds of controversy surrounding this film – but putting all that to one side for a moment, Beauty and the Beast was fantastic. It feels so grounded and real. For a story about a magical beast who has been cursed by an enchantress and has to find love before the petals of a magical flower fall off, that’s an amazing feat. The set, the music, the costumes and the tremendous acting makes the magic feel almost palpable. It does what Disney does best… it mesmerises you.

Emma Watson’s Belle

This Belle, much like the original, is fearless, fiercely loyal and remarkably intelligent. Something that felt new was her insecurity. It was so interesting to see how she’d internalised all the years of living in a village that laughs at her intellect instead of nurturing it.

Watson’s Belle is kind, generous and most importantly, unapologetic. She rejects Gaston, she teaches a girl to read, she fights Beast at every turn and she stands up for herself – but deep down she’s lonely. Understandably so, given she lost her mother and she lives in a village that looks down on her. Emma Watson plays that complexity so beautifully.

‘Everything I am is because of you’

Belle says this to her father when she says goodbye to him and it means and says so much about her and their relationship. It’s the true love story of the film. The chemistry between Kevin Kline, who plays Belle’s father Maurice, and Emma Watson was amazing – so much so that when Belle makes that all too important sacrifice by taking his place as Beast’s prisoner, it truly hurts.

The Love Story

When Belle escapes and nearly gets eaten by wolves but gets saved by Beast, that’s where it all begins. You see the conflict as Belle tries to decide between getting out of there or saving Beast, who is gravely injured. It’s all in Watson’s acting, that inner turmoil between doing what is easy and what is right. In that moment, Belle choose to stay and help him and she realises that he saved her at great risk to himself – thus begins their love story.

Dan Stevens manages to convey so much with just his eyes. His Beast is so eerily close to the one of the animation: the anger, the pain and the loneliness, you can feel it all by just staring at those big blue eyes. A big theme in this film that wasn’t much explored in the original is the loss of innocence that both these characters have suffered through the loss of their mothers. They ground this love story in mutual respect and two lonely people – both outsiders in their own way – finding comfort in each other, so when that iconic Waltz scene happens, it feels so deserved.

The Best Part

The best thing about the film, however, was the music. The 1991 Beauty and the Beast has some grand orchestral pieces – its music won numerous awards and the remake transcended that legacy. Of course, it has everything to do with the fact that the original composer, Alan Menken, worked on the live action’s score as well. The cast is full of strong singers and each one held their own – not just in their solo pieces but also in the ensemble pieces.

The music felt epic, it filled the room and made everything more magnificent. It made it so that when Beast shows up for the first time to take Belle’s father, you’re scared. Even though you’re 19 and you know it happens, you’re legitimately a bit anxious.

In truth, the most surprising thing was how funny the film was. The dialogue is witty, extremely clever and just plain humorous. The relationship between Lumière and Cogsworth is one of the greatest bromances of all time and their intense differences – Lumière the spontaneous rule breaker, Cogsworth the consistent rule follower – makes their dynamic so comical. In fact, all the household objects add so much light to the darkened castle and animate it – pun intended.

This film exceeded my wildest expectations. It took a beloved film and made it so that new generations can be introduced to the magic of this story and previous ones can relish the nostalgia – and it is nostalgic, beautifully so. You sit in that cinema and you’re transported. It’s what books do for Belle so it’s kind of poetic.

Did Beauty and the Beast meet your expectations?

Let us and @AshYonga ‏ know on @EpigramFilm.

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