Beauty and the Beast

'Beauty and the Beast' is not the movie that is going to change your world view. At best, it is a children movie some pretty good songs from the older one recycled. Emma Watson is looking good as Belle and turns in a decent performance. And the movie sustains interest through its run time and ends with a happily ever-after.

So why write a review? Because the movie also brings forth a few themes not commonly seen in movies and especially in Disney movies. Thats what makes this a much more interesting than the rest.

Belle is not the normal Disney heroine. In line with the empowered heroines of the modern Disney era (still with a few stereo types hanging on!), Belle is the girl who can read in the village and gets mocked for it by the villagers.

And the movie turns the theme of a 'damsel in distress' on its head and is actually about how Belle rescues the prince from his curse and basically brings redemption for him. This is at odds with the usual tale of the prince charming riding in to save the day for the princess.

Gaston, in a normal story, will be that prince charming. Dashing, witty and full of charm, he is portrayed instead as the brawny village idiot. In a way, instead of the prince charming, he  becomes the villain to the beast and Belle.

Of course, Belle is that intelligent heroine who rescues the Prince from his curse. We actually see her ride to rescue her father once and stand up to Gaston when he mobilizes the village. She is quite clever to understand the watch gear mechanism her father works with and hence is at once, beautiful and clever. And that is a recipe for ridicule among the villagers which she endures without batting the eye.

Life always teaches that the mother is always stronger than the father. It is always the witty, clever girl who comes out stronger in any relationship. Belle proves that by standing up to the Beast and transforming him without telling him.

However, I had some issues with this transforming business following the imprisoning sequence of Belle. Though it starts as an abusive relationship with the Beast imprisoning Belle, it transforms into love. This is a theme that could've been avoided as it conveys the wrong way of looking at a relationship. To me, advising anyone to find love in an abusive relationship is just cynical and regressive and just helps to keep the girl in the abusive relationship forever. That is so Tamil-cinema like and is completely at odds with how Belle has been portrayed through the movie.

If we can forgive that one part, the other theme the movie portrays a bit loudly is the redeeming power of love itself. The Beast gets cursed because he couldn't find love in his heart. Though they start at odds, Belle enchants him and lets him find love within him.

However, the Love here is not the love of the Beast. The Beast is shown sulking at the top of the tower of his castle when Belle leaves him. He does not become the savior of the day, but awaits his rescue at the hands of Belle. There is macho showing off of his love at any point. He pines, whines, cares, feels and does all the supposedly 'feminine' things about love. It is so refreshing to see that in the Beast.

The Rose whose petals fall off does not just represent the passage of time but the change in heart of the Beast. As always, love redeems the Beast and lifts the curse and they live happily forever.

If I can look beyond that one flaw, I would say the movie strikes the right chords and of course , the songs are absolutely fabulous and makes it the movie for the summer.

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