Beauty and the Beast

This is a tale a little less older than time – to use the buzzword attached to it, ‘woker’ – more inclusive and feminist Beauty and the Beast. Belle is now an inventor as well as a bookworm who wears an ear cuff with her final marshmallow-puffed dress, and director Bill Condon publicly confirmed that Le Fou only has eyes for Gaston. If a lot has been made of the ‘exclusively gay moment’ and more than a little bit of Emma Watson’s influence has crept into Belle to correct the less enlightened 90s; it’s to disguise that the live action Beauty and the Beast feels already-ran. Hold up the animated film next to it, and it’s interchangeable. It’s enacted in glorious gilt sets (so much gilt), costumes, and the Beast’s hexed palatial help are personified disorientingly photorealistically, intended to feel sweepingly overwhelming and romantic, so large that the emotions cannot help but overflow. But despite the exerted encouragement to be excited through visual splendour of a dazzling, Busby Berkeley-esque Be Our Guest; it only takes flight when most of the characters actually comes to life in the final scenes. It’s there that the impressive cast of character actors, seasoned leads, and Broadway legends are allowed to truly show off. Why cast Audra McDonald, a beguiling talent with six wins from her eight Tony nominations, who Peter Marks of The Washington Post said of her performance in 2016’s Shuffle Along that “as a result of the acumen she exhibits on this occasion for tap, soft shoe and scat-singing, a theatergoer will be forgiven for wondering if she could also design your next home, paint your likeness in the style of Rembrandt and perform a one-woman stage version of the Bible”, if she only truly performs for minutes in this two-hour-plus film? It’s hard for it not to feel redundant.

 

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