Emma Watson has been at the center of an online spectacle for quite some time now. When Disney announced they would be casting her to play bookworm Belle in Beauty and the Beast, the people of the internet lost their minds.
Anticipation grew as images of the movie, and the trailer were released. Since the release of the trailer, Watson has been the target of criticism for many online critics who were quick to attack her singing. In the realm of movie remakes complaints like these are typical. Since this is not Beauty and the Beast’s first production, and the previous movie is still well-known and beloved, Watson unfortunately does not have the luxury to create her version of Belle without comparisons being made. Many audience members are expecting to hear the vocal chops of a Whitney Houston reincarnated-a Julie Andrews fit for 2017.
Those audience members need to be reminded that there is only one Julie Andrews, and there was only one Whitney Houston. Yes, there are amazing singers out there that possess the vocal heights of Andrews and Houston who can also act. These volunteer critics wanted the perfect Belle, who would be the real-life version of the animated adventuress. To them, this is what would have made flawless casting. But, I wonder, if for a minute they could appreciate voices that are not so operatic. I believe a voice like Nora Jones could have played just as good of a Belle, too.
Such a powerful voice could have been found, but despite this not being the case Emma Watson’s acting ability did not make me miss such a voice. In fact, I barely noticed such a voice being missed at all. I believe this is a testament to Emma Watson as an actress. When she is on screen, you do not want to look anywhere else. It is not like watching Marilyn Monroe in a movie, where your eyes are fixated on the allure she brings by being a goddess-siren on screen. Watson’s star power and presence could be compared to the same draw Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly possessed. Her earnest ability to bring a friendliness that encapsulates regality and insight draws the audience in. It is an on-screen ability not many young starlets have. Watson’s on-screen presence does not involve any cheap tricks, or pulling a rabbit out of a hat. She earns her audience without shock value.
Luke Evans seems to be exactly the kind of Gaston viewers were hoping for. To say that Evans nailed the musical demands, and personification of Gaston, would be putting it lightly. He had the most demanding role of the cast. Belle, in my opinion, could have had a flexible portrayal. Gaston is so larger than life, the actor chosen to play the role would have had to surpass even the animated expectations. The writers of the film knew this, and made “Gaston” a thunderous musical spectacle.
LeFou was played by the underrated Josh Gad. Why this man does nоt have as much fame as he has talent is beyond me. Josh Gad, who was the speaking and singing voice of Olaf in Frozen, can sing and act circles around anyone in the cast. My only hope for Gad is that Hollywood takes notice, or in the very least Disney. Their focus should very much be on putting him in front of the camera.
With live-action movies, Disney has given itself a chance to right wrongs. In the past, Disney has received criticism due to the lack of inclusion that has comprised many casts of its beloved movies. Stereotypes have been criticized, and seen as a lack of a step forward, even if it is representation on screen. I could not agree more. In the live-action
Beauty and the Beast, there was much more representation for people of color. However, these actors were cast in the background, and only seen in small snippets of the movie. As crude as I can be about this, I must express that this was still a step in a positive direction, albeit a small one. Disney had no problem putting actors of color in classic colonial wigs, playing roles that were Caucasian characters in the animated movie. I’m not sure if I should give Lin-Manuel Miranda credit for this, but I do believe his artistry in
Hamilton is reshaping what many casting directors believe would fit the bill for a role. Hopefully this small step in the right direction will lead to bigger steps in the future, steps that are not inching forward, but are full and respectable representations of characters that actors from any walk of life would be able to play. When it comes to representation in film, there is no need to be squeamish in casting. Movies should not be so primitively cast, with such scarce representations of people of different backgrounds.
LGBT+ characters in Disney films are no exception. Before the release of the live-action Beauty and the Beast, Disney announced their first gay character. The internet was abuzz with anticipation, until it was announced that the moment would be a very small scene. A monumental moment in Disney history is a drop in the entirely of the film-seeming very much like the false advertising of progress. It seemed as though the amazing announcement of representation was a lovely gift that was just as quickly taken away.
Ultimately, the scene with LeFou dancing in the ballroom with one of the townsmen, joining the rest of the dancing couples was a moment of beautiful inclusion – even though it was a moment you could have missed if you had sneezed during that part of the movie. The other scene that involved said townsman, showing him in a dress, was a disappointment for many. Online many voiced their opinion by saying it seemed more of a mockery then inclusion. For me, the message of that scene seemed unclear – but, a scene without a clear message should just be written off as one that is done in poor taste. Sidelining performers or characters that are of color or LGBT+ does not show profound progress or full support. This kind of progress should not be seen as groundbreaking.
Visually the cinematography of Beauty and the Beast was breathtaking. It was so artfully done even those with the most discerning of tastes would have appreciated the craftsmanship that was put into the film.
Despite ethical bumps in the road, Beauty and the Beast is a well-done movie. It is a movie I would enjoy seeing again and again, if given the chance. In regards to movie history, Watson has already starred in 7 of the 50 top grossing movies of all time, with Harry Potter. If Beauty and the Beast continues earning the way that it has, Watson may have another movie title to add to that list.