One snowy night in December of 1991, my parents took my brother and I to the Vogue theatre. It was a quiet night and I don’t remember the theatre being crowded. I remember the smell of the popcorn and licorice. I was enthralled with the movie as it unfolded. I remember that night vividly, the snow as it drifted through the air, how the city felt muffled and as if we’d stepped into a fairy tale as we left the theatre. I wanted to go back, I wanted to watch the movie again and again. I wanted to run away into that fairy tale and find my own adventures.
I adored it so much.
Naturally, when I found out they were remaking the film for live action I was immediately excited, and became progressively worried until I absolutely dreaded it’s release. I had been trying to find other versions of the myth through out the years and none of them captured the same feelings I had watching it in that theatre when I was ten. There have been some absymal remakes through the years and none of them had the same disney touch. To have this movie happen now, twenty-six years later, I was sure there was going to be some flaw that would stand out and ruin it.
News surrounding the movie didn’t help.
Disney’s proud delcaration of an ‘exclusively gay moment’ and the backlash from both LGBT+ community and the christian right spun around the movie. Depending on who you were paying attention to, either Disney went too far and was trying to convert kids to that gay lifestyle, or they didn’t go far enough and had the audacity of using the slapstick villian sidekick as the gay character as a copout.
After having seen the movie, I’m not sure you could even call what was on film an exclusively gay moment, it was subtext at best and retreading tired and old fashion jokes about cross dressing to highlight the hey it’s good to be gay. Disney was barely acknowledging the subtext that was in the 1991 film and decided to add a half second dance blink and you’ll miss it at the end.
Disney wasn’t going to win this one, people were going to be angry and they tried to curry favour while keeping the text to the absolute minimum. In a story about outcasts finding love and companionship they really could have done so much more. Lumiere and Cogsworth could have been the relationship of choice, still subtle but a definite decision in the right direction. One day I will get my lonely outcast young man who runs from the village and discovers his prince. But it wasn’t this movie.
That being said, I adore this movie. It has all of the story beats necessary to maintain my nostalgia bug, it has some extras that expand the narrative and fill some of the odd plotholes in the animated version. Belle is more active and proactive throughout the movie. The Beast (we’re going with Adam until someone can tell me a better name ) given more opportunity to be a well rounded character, bitter and angry yes, but as he opens up to Belle he shows his romantic side, how kind he is, and a fantastic degress of trust in her.
I nostalgia cried through this movie. I loved every minute, every new song and additions to the story. I even like Josh Gad’s La Fou, he’s not the slapstick sidekick from the original and he is more rounded even if I don’t think the “exlcusively gay moment” was anything more than media attention.
I rented it two days ago and have watched it four times. I feel like that kid yelling ‘again again’ everytime I rewatch it. This likely won’t go away very quickly since the last time I felt like this for a movie it was The Hobbit Trilogy and I rewatched those to the point I can quote them. If a movie hits that part of my brain where I need to rewatch it repeatedly I lose all objectivity .
There is also the writer part of my brain that is dissecting all of it and trying to rework and adapt and find places where there could be more story or more interesting stories to tell.
I understand there is a very good criticism of Disney movies in general that once the princess kisses her prince her story is over, and that Belle is used as a specific example of her ‘wanting so much more’ and then falling in love and her story is over. But Belle’s journey is introspective, her finding that there is more beyond the confines of her small village and finding someone like the Beast who shares her interests and understands her. The same way she offers him understanding and calls him on his shit.
If I add a B&B or Eros and psyche Retelling to the list of things I want to write, I’m quite sure that Strife will arrive on my doorstep to hit me with a fish.