Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: Beauty and the Beast

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: Beauty and the Beast

Article excerpt

To cut to the chase, my ten-year-old daughter really liked Beauty and the Beast. And given you're probably going to be watching this as a child's plus-one, I'd say hers is the view that matters. Her favourite character was Le Fou, the baddie's gay sidekick, though I'm not sure she realised. But then the gay scene that Disney's been making such a fuss about, in which the adorably camp and chubby Josh Gad gives Luke Evans -- the fabulous Gaston -- a bit of a shoulder massage when they're relaxing at the inn, honestly isn't such a big deal. Sorry.

This would be a digression, except that there's been so much baggage piled on to B and the B that the ideology is what you end up looking out for. To the question, why bother making a real version of a movie that Disney did brilliantly in the 1991 animated version with Angela Lansbury as the teapot, there's not much of an answer, except that this has got more of a message and notional emotional depth. As to the message, there's the feminism, obviously; or there's the gay thing -- and now Stanley Tucci (the harpsichord) has surfaced to declare that it's actually the interracial couples that make it contemporary. Take your pick.

There are, in fact, scenes where you might as well have animation, such as Emma Watson as Belle picking her way through the whimsically cartoonish French village market, with the overblown flower stalls and buxom peasant girls. She's got her book, you see, and that's all that matters. Naturally, the village elders take a dim view of this; when she tries to teach a little girl to read -- while her donkey washes the clothes by churning them round the pond in a barrel -- they up-end her useful device. So that's the female literacy message sorted. Undaunted, she sees off Gaston, the deplorable suitor, who, being a soldier, does like a challenge. Luke Evans does smirking self-regard possibly even better than the animated version, though he does have Josh Gad imitating his every gesture.

Emma, however, is devoted to her widowed father, Maurice (Kevin Kline). She's able, handily, to help with his mechanical contraptions. So when his horse returns home from market riderless, she doesn't hesitate, but gallops all the way back to the castle. …

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