Disclaimer: this review is about the 2014 French-German Beauty and the Beast movie, not the 2017 American version. While I enjoy the original french version of the fairytale, the animated 1991 version is the one that remains in my heart. I remember being absolutely taken with the film and its story remains as one of my favourites. In fact, I watched it so many times, that I actually forgot (for a good couple years!) that the original French tale was different (no transformed servants, other siblings, no Gaston, etc.). So when it came to this adaption, my original assumption was that it was going to be based off the 1991 film. However, this film goes back to the basic french version, albeit with some changes.
The story remains the same for a large part. Belle asks for a rose from her father. He finds one and in the processes ends up bound to the Beast. Belle exchanges her life for her father’s. She comes to live with the Beast in his magical castle. He tries to win her love with his extravagant lifestyle. She goes to visit her family. And she eventually returns to save the Beast and in the process, revert him back to the Prince he once was. However, there are also the following differences: the Beast happens to be a widower, the magic has a background story, there’s a pool of magical healing water, and Gaston is replaced by Belle’s brothers and some thieves.
On that note, I don’t think any of the changes really affect the tone of the movie too much. I actually thought of some of them were quite interesting and enjoyable. However, I also felt that Belle and the Beast’s love story left a lot to be wanting. According to the original tale (or at least my interpretation of it), Belle fell in love with the Beast due to his nature. He was nice to her and became her friend. There was genuine affection that turned into love. I found that connection lacking in this one. Or rather, there was an instant connection between the Beauty and the Beast (largely due to the chemistry of the actors), but it was never really explored to my preferred depth. In this movie, the Beast was generally quite aloof towards her (which is understandable due to his insecurity over his looks and general life), while Belle oscillates between being scared and angry. I mean, it was implied that she fell in love with him as she witnessed his love for his previous wife. Yet, even then, I just found it to be quite odd and would’ve much preferred her to have fallen in love with him due to his behaviour towards her vs. his behaviour towards his first wife.
Secondly, the movie did have the tendency to drag on for a bit. However, it’s not big flaw or anything and is actually quite acceptable due to the visuals.
Coming to the visuals, in my opinion, they are the best thing about this movie. The graphics are insanely beautiful and enchanting. I quite enjoyed them and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Definitely the highlight of the film. As mentioned earlier, the stunning graphics managed to make the slowness of the movie bearable.
That said, acting was pretty good too. I’ve seen Vincent Cassel in other films and always enjoyed him, so I figured I’d like him in this too. Although I definitely did miss seeing his face in the movie (he was the Beast for a large section of the movie), I enjoyed his act as the Beast. He brought this vulnerability to the Beast, that was also simultaneously mixed in with ferocity and aggression. It really was fantastic and I think according to the story, it captured the general feel of the character really well. Lea Seydoux was also actually really good. Although at times, her Belle didn’t really have much to do besides look sad. However, together, both Cassel and Seydoux were fantastic. The chemistry between them was top notch. And the director, Christophe Gans, did a good job positioning scenes to capitalize on their chemistry. I also quite enjoyed the expository scene switching from storybook to movie visual. It was very well done.
My rating: watch it for some beautiful visuals and to witness the original The Beauty and The Beast fairytale.